Saturday, 16 July 2016

Benefits of OatMeal

Oatmeal comes from Oat plant (Avena sativa). It’s heavily advertised as the meal of fitness and we have seen many brands adding oats to their food in order to appear healthier. How much of oatmeal we need to consume per day to achieve the benefits stated? Is there any evidence behind the health claims of oatmeal?   


1. Does eating oatmeal reduce cholesterol level?

The short answer is yes. There are three types of cholesterol level that we are concerned about. LDL, HDL and Triglyceride. LDL & Triglyceride also known as the “bad” cholesterol are the ones responsible for accelerated hardening of our blood vessels (atherosclerosis). With the hardening of blood vessels, there is a higher chance of getting stroke or heart attack.

HDL on the other hand, is the “good” cholesterol. It helps in preventing the hardening.
So, the aim is to increase HDL and reduce LDL along with Triglyceride. Many claim that oatmeal is capable of doing that. A research by Thongoun et al proved that eating oats everyday for 4 weeks, reduced the total cholesterol level by 5%, and LDL by 10%. That sounds promising. Patients included in the study were all those with high cholesterol level, thus it’s more applicable for those with the problem.

Researchers from Cochrane Heart group looked at 10 studies done on this matter, and made scientific calculations on how beneficial oatmeal really is in reducing cholesterol level. These sort of “calculation” is known as meta analysis, and it’s regarded as the highest level of evidence.

They concluded that people who eat oatmeal   had lower level of total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol. But they cautioned that “many of the studies done on this matter were short term, of poor quality and doesn’t have sufficient power. Most of the trials were funded by companies with commercial interests in wholegrains.”

Another group of scientists from Chengdu, China specifically looked at how oatmeal helps in people with diabetes mellitus. They included 16 articles on studies that looked at oatmeal’s ability to reduce cholesterol and blood sugar level in people with diabetes mellitus. They discovered that oatmeal consumption is able to reduce blood sugar level, total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol as well as slightly reducing Triglyceride.

2. Oatmeal and colon cancer

Oatmeal helps in reducing constipation, simply because it’s an soluble fibre.  It is not well absorbed by our body, so it stays longer in the colon. In colon it absorbs water and makes the stool heavier,thus helping in preventing constipation. But is there evidence that soluble fibre prevents colon cancer?

Oatmeal and other wholegrain food have shown some benefits in patients with colon problems as well. A paper published by British nutritionists looked at 28 articles on benefits of oatmeal in colon patients. The group of scientists concluded that there is no evidence to suggest that oatmeal and other wholegrain meals can prevent colon cancer or reduce symptoms in other bowel disorders.

How to prepare oatmeal to benefit maximum from it?


Researchers from China looked into the best method of oats preparation. After studying the effect of oatmeal, they concluded that boiling oatmeal makes the oat better at reducing blood cholesterol level compared to brewing. There are many ways to prepare oatmeal, some prefer to add fruits, or milk for flavor and additional nutrients. 

In conclusion, small scale studies with short follow up time do show some benefits for oatmeal in reducing cholesterol level and preventing colon cancer. However there is no strong evidence to suggest oatmeal being useful in reducing cholesterol level and preventing colon cancer. Hopefully more researches in future will show strong evidence.

For further reading:

1.       Oatmeal & Bowel Diseases

2.       Oatmeal and Cholesterol reduction

3.       Oatmeal preparation

4.       Oatmeal in Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

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