A series of recent studies seem to confirm that oatmeal is good for the heart.
The studies stopped short of showing a direct effect of eating oatmeal on reducing heart disease risk or heart-related death, but researchers say they found oatmeal foods did produce an overall cholesterol-lowering effect.
People who ate a diet rich in oatmeal and wholegrain oat products experienced a decrease in both total cholesterol and unhealthy low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels.
Elevated overall cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels are major risk factors for heart disease.
In the study, published in the Cochrane Database of Systemic Reviews, researchers reviewed 10 studies on the effects of giving whole-grain foods to adults. Eight of the studies involved whole-grain oats and included a total of 914 adults at risk for heart disease.
When researchers pooled the results of the studies, they found people who ate whole-grain oatmeal had lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels compared with those who ate refined grain foods. The average reduction in total cholesterol levels was 7.7 mg/dL and the average reduction in LDL cholesterol levels was 7 mg/dL.
Based on these results, researchers say there is evidence on wholegrain oats to suggest that health care professionals could recommend oats as part of a cholesterol-reduction program. But they say more study is needed.
"Well-designed, adequately powered studies are now needed to evaluate the effects of long-term consumption of oats," says researcher Sarah Kelly of the School of Health and Social Care at the University of Teesside, England, in a news release.
The American Heart Association already recommends whole-grain foods for a heart-healthy diet. According to the group's web site, "The fiber found in unrefined whole-grain foods can help lower your blood cholesterol, which is important in preventing heart disease and stroke."