Could oats keep your gut healthy and help prevent heart disease?

Could oats keep your gut healthy and help prevent heart disease?

Volunteers are required 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.

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 disease, but these findings have not been conclusive.

Now Rowett researchers are launching another study - which will begin in January - to see whether this is the case.

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.

“Oats seem to promote healthy bacteria in the gut. They also seem to reduce blood pressure and the levels of cholesterol in the blood which may be responsible for the development of heart disease.

“Our study will compare the effects of two different diets, one high in oats and one oat-free, on blood pressure, the activity and composition of gut bacteria, as well as cholesterol, sugar and other chemicals in the blood.

“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.”

For the study the team are looking for volunteers aged between 40 to 65 who 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 would 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 stool samples would be collected.

Dr Thies said: “We hope that information from this study will tell us whether oats are the best for the gut, heart and arteries.

Anyone interested in volunteering for the study should contact Dr Lynsey Mills, study co-ordinator, on Lynsey.mills@abdn.ac.uk or by calling  01224 438679 / 437986 or by emailing Dr Frank Thies on f.thies@abdn.ac.uk