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Providing perspectives on recent research into vitamins and nutritionals


Oat-beta-glucan, a natural way to maintain a healthy blood cholesterol

By Daniel Raederstorff


Numerous clinical studies, meta-analyses and systemic reviews have established that oat beta-glucan lowers plasma low-density-lipoprotein-cholesterol (LDL-C) levels. A meta-analysis by Whitehead et al. 2014 (1) showed that oat beta-glucan at doses of 3 g per day significantly decreases both total cholesterol and LDL-C levels. The outcomes suggest that high viscosity oat beta-glucan can reduce cholesterol, while low viscosity products have no significant effect. The physicochemical properties of beta-glucan - notably its molecular weight (MW) and viscosity - are key to the physiological benefits observed with beta-glucan products. The degree of polymerization of the beta-glucan is directly reflected in the viscosity, and the viscosity depends on the molecular weight.

According to a recent survey, over 40% of adults in Europe, Middle East and Africa consider heart health and protection against non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases, as major health concerns. However, awareness about the vital role that a healthy diet plays in helping to prevent and maintain heart health is relatively high (2). Health authorities in Europe, the US and Canada have approved health claims for the cholesterol-lowering effect of oat beta-glucan at a dose of at least 3 g per day.

Wolver et al. 2016 (3) recently published a paper on the effect of oat beta-glucan on LDL-C in humans with serum LDL-C levels lower than 160 mg/dL. To date, published human studies have demonstrated the effects in a variety of individuals with different baseline LDL cholesterol levels. These mostly range from slightly elevated, or borderline high, to high LDL-C (100 mg/dL to above 190 mg/dL). LDL-C is one of the major risk factors in the development of atherosclerosis. Achieving a LDL-C value of less than 100 mg/dL is especially important in patients who have additional risk factors that could accelerate the development of cardiovascular diseases. There is a clear need to evaluate more closely the effect of oat beta-glucan in healthy individuals with LDL-C levels below 160 mg per day.

The new study reanalyzed the results of a previously published large clinical trial, in which subjects were randomly assigned to receive a breakfast cereal containing 3 g high-MW (3H), 4 g medium-MW (4M), 3 g medium-MW (3M) or 4 g low-MW (4L) oat beta-glucan or a wheat-bran control (W) for four weeks. In subjects with LDL-C <160 mg/dL, daily intake of either 3 g high-MW (MW 2,200,000 g/mol) or 4 g medium-MW (850,000 g/mol) oat beta-glucan significantly decreased LDL-C compared to the wheat bran control by about 7 to 8%. On the contrary, neither 3 g medium-MW (530,000 g/mol) nor 4 g low-MW (210,000 g/mol) oat beta-glucan had a significant effect in healthy individuals with LDL-C <160 mg/dL. The findings clearly show that high molecular weight beta-glucan (3 g per day) is able to lower LDL cholesterol in healthy individuals with a near optimal LDL-C level; a MW of at least 850,000 g/mol is required for an optimal effect.

The authors of the paper concluded, “Overall the studies indicate that a dose of at least 3 g per day of oat beta-glucan can significantly lower total cholesterol and LDL-C levels in healthy individuals having a slightly elevated LDL-C levels, but still below 160 mg/dl. Therefore, oat beta-glucan may be useful for healthy individuals with near optimal or borderline high LDL-C levels (100 to 160 mg/dL) to help them to bring or maintain their LDL-C levels at an optimal level.”

  • Learn more about the health benefits of oat beta-glucan and download the whitepaper HERE
  • “Trends in health concerns across Europe, Middle East and Africa” – download the whitepaper HERE