Whole Grain Oats Can Improve Insulin Sensitivity and Cholesterol

The benefits of oats on blood sugar and cholesterol are well known, but new research suggests that the gut might also be involved. In a small study in Utah, 24 mice were fed a diet of either whole grain oat flour or refined (low bran) oat flour for eight weeks. The whole grain group had vastly different gut microbiota (the friendly bacteria in the gut) than the refined oat group, including twice as many beneficial Lactobacillacea. Those fed the whole grain oats also had significantly improved insulin sensitivity (a measure of how well a body is able to regulate its own blood sugar), 9.9% lower total cholesterol and 11% lower non-HDL (a combination of LDL and VLDL or “bad cholesterol”). The researchers speculate that the changes in gut microbiota could be a mechanism for improved insulin sensitivity and cholesterol, and conclude that these findings “further confirm the beneficial effect of whole grain oats.”
Journal of Nutrition. 2014 Dec 10. (Zhou A et al.)

Cholesterol / Serum Lipids
Diabetes / Insulin / Glucose
Gut Health
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While fruits and vegetables are known as sources of healthy antioxidants and phenolic compounds, research increasingly shows that whole grains contain them too. In this review, researchers analyzed the total phenolic contents, phenolic acid profile and antioxidant activity of several whole grains, including wheat, corn, rice, barley, sorghum, rye, oat and millet. The review shows that whole grains contain a number of phytochemicals (including antioxidants) and significantly exhibit antioxidant activity. Researchers conclude that the consumption of whole grains is considered to have significant health benefits including prevention of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer because of the contribution of phenolic compounds. 
Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2014 July 30. [epub ahead of print] (Van Hung P et al.)

Diabetes / Insulin / Glucose
Diet Quality / Nutrients
Heart / Cardiovascular Disease
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Inflammation has been linked to many diseases, so understanding how to reduce inflammation is important. In a small study in Scotland, 22 people with type 2 diabetes participated in a randomized cross-over study, which consisted of two 8-week interventions with either an oat-enriched diet (their normal diet with oats replacing some of the carbohydrates; average intake of oats was 131g/day, or the equivalent of more than 1 ½ cups uncooked rolled oats) or a diet based on the standard dietary advice from Diabetes UK (average intake of oats was only 5g/day). Researchers then assessed the microparticle concentrations (a marker of inflammation) of patients after each diet and found that the oat-enriched diet significantly improved these risk factors for inflammation.  
Molecular Nutrition and Food Research. 2014 June;58(6):1322-32. (Zhang X et al.) 

Diabetes / Insulin / Glucose
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Processing Barley & Oats Can Make Phenols More Bioaccessible

A food’s nutritional quality is influenced not only by its ingredient list, but also by how it is processed. To see how processing grains affects the bioaccessibility of nutrients in animals, researchers measured the free and bound phenolic acids in pigs after feeding them whole grain barley and oats, or extruded whole grain barley and extruded oats. Extrusion is a process used to make pasta, cereal, croutons, and other grain products, by sending a flour and water mixture through a die to get uniform shapes. The researchers found that the phenolic acids (healthy phytochemicals found in plant foods) were 29% and 14% more bioaccessible in extruded barley and extruded oats, respectively, compared to their non-extruded counterparts. While this is just an animal study, it indicates that different processing methods might make different nutrients more readily available.
Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2013 Mar 20;61(11):2739-47. (Hole AS et al.)

Diet Quality / Nutrients
Traditional Diets, General


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