A BOWL of porridge a day can dramatically reduce the risk of suffering a heart attack, say scientists.
Oat bran lowers cholesterol, which collects in blood vessels where it can cause clots, in a number of ways according to new research.
Eating oats has been known to ward off cardiovascular disease for more than 50 years but previous studies have focused on their impact on levels of LDL, or bad, cholesterol.
Now there is growing evidence two other markers provide an even more accurate assessment.
These include non-HDL cholesterol – the total amount minus good, or HDL, cholesterol – and apoB (apolipoprotein B) that carries bad cholesterol through the blood.
This is especially true for people with obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes since they typically do not have elevated LDL cholesterol levels.
Now a review pooling data from earlier trials has shown eating oat fibre can reduce all three markers.
Dr Vladimir Vuksan, whose findings are published in the British Journal of Nutrition, said oats are a rich source of beta-glucan – a fibre which seems to be responsible for the beneficial effects.
In 1963 it was first reported that substituting white bread with oat bread containing 140g or 5oz of rolled oats lowered LDL cholesterol.
Dr Vuksan and colleagues looked at 58 clinical studies involving almost 4,000 people from around the world.
They assessed the effect of diets enriched with oat beta-glucan compared with controlled diets on LDL cholesterol, and, for the first time, on non-HDL cholesterol and apoB as well.
Dr Vuksan, of St Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, said: “Diets enriched with about 3.5 grammes a day of beta-glucan fibre from oats were found to modestly improve LDL cholesterol, but also non-HDC and apoB compared to control diets.”
Overall, LDL cholesterol was reduced by 4.2 per cent, non-HDL cholesterol by 4.8 per cent and apoB by 2.3 per cent.
Dr Vuksan said it could be difficult for people to consume the recommended amount by eating oat meal alone so he recommends increasing consumption of oat bran.
For example, one cup of cooked oat bran (88 calories) contains the same quantity of beta-glucan as double the amount of cooked oat meal (166 calories).
Oat bran can also be eaten as a cereal, used in some baked goods although since it is low in gluten the texture may be tough, or sprinkled on other foods.
Canada is the third largest producer of oats in the world, so increasing consumption is good for health and the economy as well, Dr. Vuksan said.
Consumption has been falling considerably for many years.