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Gluten-Free oatmeal provides health benefits in any weather

Tracy Woolrich's picture

According to Samuel Johnson's 1977 Dictionary, he defined oats as "A grain, which in England is generally given to horses, but in Scotland appears to support the people." Of course, the Scotsman’s instant reply was, “That’s why England has such good horses and Scotland has such fine men.” Unfortunately Johnson’s words are still true, as humans eat only 5 percent of all oats grown. That is unfortunate as oats have a lot of nutritional value. The beneficial health effects of oats are best if 1 to 1 1/2 cup of oats is eaten every day. So in other words it may not be the apple but a cup of oats a day that may keep the doctor away.

(It is noteworthy that research published in the New England Journal of Medicine strongly suggests that persons with celiac disease can consume moderate amounts of uncontaminated oats. Nonetheless, celiac disease organizations in the United States are concerned that commercial oat products may be contaminated with wheat, barley, or rye during harvesting, transporting, milling, and processing. With that in mind remember that not all commercially produced products are alike.)

FDA endorsed oatmeal benefits in 1997
Scientific reviews continue to show the link between oatmeal and lower cholesterol levels to be even stronger than when the FDA initially allowed the health claim's appearance on food labels in the 1990’s. Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine and clinical nutrition at the University Of Kentucky College Of Medicine, presented an analysis indicating this. He published his finding in "The Oatmeal-Cholesterol Connection: 10 Years Later" in the January/February 2008 issue of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. His presentation concluded that all newer studies are consistent with the original conclusion reached by the FDA in 1997. His report says studies conducted during the next decade, without exception, shown:

• total cholesterol levels are lowered through oat consumption;

• low density lipoprotein (LDL- the "bad" cholesterol) is reduced without adverse effects on high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL - the "good" cholesterol), or triglyceride levels.

"Whole-grain products like oatmeal are among some of the best foods one can eat to improve cholesterol levels, in addition to other lifestyle choices," Anderson said. "Lifestyle choices, such as diet, should be the first line of therapy for most patients with moderate cholesterol risk given the expense, safety concerns, and intolerance related to cholesterol lowering drugs. Since the 80’s, oatmeal has been scientifically recognized for its heart health benefits, and the latest research shows this evidence endures the test of time and should be embraced as a lifestyle option for the millions of Americans at-risk for heart disease,” said Anderson.

Latest research on oatmeal and lower cholesterol

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber, which can reduce the absorption of LDL (low-density lipoprotein) or "bad," cholesterol into your bloodstream. Five to 10 grams or more of soluble fiber a day decreases your total and LDL cholesterol. Eating 1 1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal provides 6 grams of fiber.

When you digest fiber it is converted into a thick gooey substance. Researchers think that when it is in your intestines, it sticks to cholesterol and prevents it from being absorbed. Therefore instead of the cholesterol entering your bloodstream, you simply get rid of it as waste.

Some studies have shown that oats can have a big effect on cholesterol levels. In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers tested cholesterol-lowering drugs against cholesterol-lowering foods such as oats. In a group of thirty-four adults with high cholesterol, the results were striking. The high fiber diet with oats lowered cholesterol levels nearly as well as cholesterol lowering drugs.

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Oats are one of the best sources of compounds called tocotrienols. These are antioxidants which together with tocopherols form vitamin E which inhibit cholesterol synthesis. Additional studies indicate oats provide positive changes in LDL cholesterol particles, making them less susceptible to oxidation. It is this oxidation that leads to hardening of the arteries. It is this oxidation that leads to hardening of the arteries that leads to heart attacks and strokes.

Keeping hunger away

Researchers indicate that oatmeal helps people feel more satisfied and full, therefore eating less throughout the day.

A study of teenage boys, observing their snacking habits after consuming various kinds of breakfast foods, confirms this. Researchers at Boston's Children's Hospital found that the boys who ate oatmeal had the slowest changes in blood sugar, became hungry much later in the day, and ultimately consumed 53 percent less in snack calories later in the day.

Another study conducted by the New York Obesity Center found that eating oatmeal satiates the appetite. Researchers hypothesized that it is the fiber in the oatmeal that slows down the rate at which the stomach empties, allowing you to feel full for a long period of time. Test subjects were given either oatmeal or sugared corn flakes. The oatmeal eaters in the study ate 30 percent less at lunch than those in the cereal groups.

Other health benefits of oatmeal

A pilot study by the National Institute of health assessed the short-term antihypertensive effects of soluble fiber-rich whole oat cereals when added to a standard American diet. In addition, multiple assessments of insulin sensitivity were conducted. It involved an oat cereal group to a low fiber cereal control group over 6 weeks using a total of 18 hypertensive men and women. Primary study outcomes measured were changes in systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP). Secondary outcomes measured included blood lipid levels, fasting glucose, and insulin levels. The results were that the oat cereal group experienced nearly an 8 point reduction in systolic blood pressure readings and 6 point reduction in diastolic blood pressure readings. There were virtually no changes in the control group. In the oat cereal group, there was a trend observed including a lower total insulin response to a glucose load, suggesting improved insulin sensitivity. The oats group also experienced a significant reduction in both total cholesterol (9%) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (14%).

Take away message
The soluble fiber in oats means slower digestion and a slowing the rise in blood sugar over a longer time period. It is high in protein and manganese, providing 50 percent of the recommended intake for this mineral. Also it offers an unusual amount of iron, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus and thiamine.

There are 3 grams of soluble fiber in 1.5 cups of oatmeal, which is enough to lower your cholesterol, according to the American Dietetic Association. It may be a bit much for breakfast, so just add in oatmeal to dishes at other times of the day. Try using in recipes such as casseroles and turkey/meatloaves. The health benefits of gluten-free oatmeal are undeniable. Consume it year round for better heart health, as a weight loss aid and more.

Suggested Reading

American Dietetic Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute web site.
American Heart Association
US National Library of Medicine
Purdue University
University of Kentucky (2008, January 9). Oatmeal's Health Claims Reaffirmed, Study Suggests. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 24
Ludwig DS, Majzoub JA, Al-Zahrani A, Dallal GE, Blanco I, Robert SB. High glycemic index, overeating, and obesity. Pediatrics. 1999;103:656.
Jenkins, D. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, February 2005; vol 81:pp 380-87. Jenkins, D. Journal of the American Medical Association, July 23-30, 2003; vol 290: pp 502-510. Retrieved October 24



I'm inspired. My steel cut oats have been sitting uncooked. :)