Beta-glucan from oat fiber helps lower cholesterol and protect the heart

Oat fiber lowered cholesterol and risk for heart and blood-vessel disease, according to the results of a new study from the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Researchers recruited 75 healthy, non-smoking men and women aged 22 to 65 with total cholesterol levels of 200 mg per deciliter of blood (mg/dL) or more, a level which doctors say is the beginning of high risk for heart and blood-vessel disease. Participants took 6 grams of concentrated oat beta-glucan twice per day at morning and evening meals or a placebo for six weeks. Doctors measured weight, blood pressure and blood fats at the beginning of the study, and after three and six weeks.

The researchers asked participants to maintain the usual diet and physical activity and to keep a diet diary for three days at three and six weeks, which doctors analyzed for nutrients.At the end of the study period, low-density lipoprotein (LDL, the “bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol had both dropped in the beta-glucan group, a change doctors said was equal to or greater than a 12% decrease in heart and blood-vessel disease risk.

There were no significant changes in the placebo group. The beta-glucan group did report some intestinal gas. Oat beta-glucan is a water-soluble fiber that can produce these gases as well as important short-chain fatty acids that doctors believe help lower cholesterol. The study authors suggested that oat beta-glucan would make a good standalone cholesterol-reducing dietary supplement and food manufacturers could add the ingredient to recipes to increase dietary fiber.

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