Ask the experts: Wholegrain oats

Q: "I have read that wholegrain oats help to reduce the amount of cholesterol absorbed by the body. How long does this effect last for? If you have oats for breakfast, will it help lower cholesterol absorbed from your evening meal?"


A: Nutritionist Amanda Johnson responds:

"Oats are a fantastic food; they have been shown to improve gut function (as they are high in fibre), reduce plasma cholesterol, and have a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels. Oats may also promote a feeling of satiety, or fullness, which may be useful in weight control.

In terms of cholesterol, oats have, in some studies, been shown to reduce plasma cholesterol, and in particular the unhealthy LDL cholesterol. The soluble fibre beta-glucan gum is the major cholesterol-lowering component. Not all studies, however, have shown an effect and the mechanisms involved are not fully understood. Probably the fibre in oats binds with cholesterol and increases its excretion.

The beneficial effects have been found with an intake of 3g per day of soluble fibre (equivalent to around 60g, or 2/3 cup of oats).

In terms of consumption of oats, probably the most important consideration is frequency of oat intake, rather than the exact time of day the oats are eaten. Also, the other constituents of the diet need to be considered. For the cholesterol lowering effect to occur, it is important the oats are eaten daily and that the overall diet is low in fat, and low in saturated fat. Use oats in homemade muesli, porridge, biscuits or mixed into a crumble topping."

First published: Nov 2008

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