Back in the 1960's research connected oats to lower cholesterol, particularly the ability to lower LDL cholesterol. Another plus for oats is that while lowering LDL cholesterol it does not cause HDL cholesterol to decrease and may in fact increase HDL levels.
In 2002, researchers at Colorado State University compared the impact of oat cereal versus wheat cereal on LDL cholesterol particles. Participants consuming the oat cereal experienced a reduction in small, dense LDL particles. Small, dense LDL particles are more likely to become oxidized, which leads to heart disease.
Beta-Glucans to Lower LDL Cholesterol
1. Acts as a sponge.
Oats contain beta-blucan. Beta-glucan is a type of soluble fiber. Beta-glucan acts as a ‘sponge', soaking up excess LDL cholesterol and removing it from the body. This is just one way beta-glucan works to reduce cholesterol absorption.
2. Reduce intestinal absorption of cholesterol.
Foods that contain beta-blucan tend to be bulky and cause the intestinal water layer to thicken and be more difficult for cholesterol molecules to penetrate and reach the intestinal cell layer for absorption into chylomicrons. Chylomicrons package cholesterol and carry it back to the liver where it is re-packaged and secreted as VLDL cholesterol. By reducing the amount of cholesterol that reaches the chylomicrons for absorption, beta glucan reducing circulating cholesterol levels.
3. Provides high antioxidant content.
Antioxidants combat free radicals that lead to the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. Antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which lead to atherosclerosis. Oats contain the antioxidant avenanthramides. These avenanthramides reduce the breakdown of LDL cholesterol decreasing oxidation rates and also decrease the adhesion of molecules to the inner arterial wall. The antioxidants found in oats fights LDL oxidation and interferes with plaque formation.
Also, beta-glucan reduces the rate glucose is absorbed. A decrease in glucose in the blood equals reduced insulin secretion. Insulin stimulates the production of cholesterol by the liver, so a decrease in insulin secretion equals a decrease in cholesterol production.
How Much Oatmeal to Lower Cholesterol
Current guidelines of the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend soluble fiber (including beta-glucan) to be between 10-25 grams per day to lower cholesterol. The FDA recommends consuming 3 grams of beta-glucan daily to lower LDL cholesterol.
A ½ cup serving of Old Fashioned Quaker Oats contains 2 grams of soluble fiber.
What Type of Oats
You can purchase many different oat varieties, such as instant, old-fashioned, and quick-cooking. The health benefit of these products doesn't differ, what's different is how the oat is cut or ground that influences how quickly it cooks.