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Porridge Oats Promote Gut Health and Protect the Heart

Posted Dec 12 2012 6:28am

Anecdotally there are many health benefit claims associated with porridge oats, and these claims are important. Some benefits are clear and unequivocal – such as the nutritional content in terms of energy, and fibre. But can it really be said that oats reduce cholesterolA substance present in many tissues and an important constituent of cell membranes although high concentrations of a certain type of cholesterol in the blood are unhealthy., or that oats prevent heart disease, or that oats protect the gut against pathological bacteriaA group of organisms too small to be seen with the naked eye, which are usually made up of just a single cell.? The answer could, or probably is ‘yes’, but how do you prove it? Previous studies by the University of Aberdeen Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health have suggested that eating oats could promote healthy bacteria in the gut and lower the risk of cardiovascular diseaseDisease of the heart and blood vessels, usually due to atherosclerosis., but these findings have not been conclusive.

Volunteers Required - to Eat Food

The University of Aberdeen are seeking volunteers for a new study to see whether oat based food such as the traditional Scottish staples of porridge and oatcakes can help keep our gut healthy and protect against heart disease. The new study starts in January. Dr Frank Thies, Senior Lecturer in Human Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen who will lead the study with Dr Karen Scott, from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, said: “Oats appear to have a beneficial effect on the gut and the heart and may protect against heart disease. Our study will compare the effects of two different diets, one high in oats and one oat-free, on blood pressureThe pressure of blood within the arteries., the activity and composition of gut bacteria, as well as cholesterol, sugar and other chemicals in the bloodA fluid that transports oxygen and other substances through the body, made up of blood cells suspended in a liquid.. We want to see if oats are indeed making a difference to the health of the gut and with helping reduce blood pressure and therefore the risk of heart attacks.”

Volunteers will need to be aged between 40 to 65 and would have to alter their diet slightly for 16 weeks. People will have to replace the type of bread and cereals they eat. Initially volunteers will be asked to eat only refined food – like white bread and white rice but not wholegrain food - for four weeks. Recruits will then either remain on this diet or switch to the oat diet. The oat diet will involve consuming oat-based foods like porridge and oatcakes. Bread, breakfast cereals, oatcakes and other biscuits, will be provided to the volunteers who will also receive recipe ideas. 

Recruits would be asked to attend five appointments at the Rowett where they would fill in questionnaires about what they are eating and how they feel. Their weight and blood pressure would be checked and blood and stoolFaeces. samples would be collected.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the study should contact Dr Lynsey Mills, study co-ordinator, on or by calling  01224 438679 / 437986 .

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