Healthnotes Newswire — Adding oats to a cholesterol-lowering diet improves the effects of that diet in postmenopausal women with elevated cholesterol levels, according to a study recently published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.1
One hundred twenty-seven postmenopausal women (average age of 66 years) with high cholesterol took part in the study. Participants followed the Step I Diet, a cholesterol-lowering regimen recommended by the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP), for three weeks. They then added one of four dietary treatments for an additional six weeks: oats/milk, oats/soy, wheat/milk, or wheat/soy. The oats-containing regimens significantly enhanced the cholesterol-lowering effects of the Step I diet, whereas the other regimens did not.
The Step I diet—now part of a comprehensive dietary and lifestyle intervention protocol called Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes—includes several recommendations:
- Limit saturated fat (i.e., from butter, cheese, milk, and meat) to less than 7% of total calories per day.
- Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats should provide up to 10% and 20% of total calories, respectively, so that total fat in the diet accounts for 25 to 35% of dietary calories. Fifty to sixty percent of total calories should come from carbohydrates.
- Fifteen percent of total calories should come from protein.
- Dietary cholesterol (e.g., from eggs, meat, and other animal foods) should be limited to less than 200 mg per day.
- The diet should contain plenty of fiber (between 20 and 30 grams per day).
For more details about the NCEP’s recommendations, see “U.S. Declares War on High Cholesterol” (Healthnotes Newswire, May 17, 2001).
In addition to these guidelines, participants in the study’s oats/milk group added 2 servings (1.5 cups cooked) of oats and milk protein per day; the oats/soy group added 2 servings of oats with soy protein instead of milk protein. The oats in both groups consisted of either 56 grams (just under 2 ounces) dry weight of cooked oatmeal, or 2 ounces per day of ready-to-eat oat bran cereal. The authors reported that participants found it easy to adhere to the diet and were gratified by the prompt reduction in cholesterol levels.
The Step I diet alone significantly lowered total cholesterol (TC), low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. Adding oats to the diet enhanced these effects. Total cholesterol levels were reduced by an additional 3% by the addition of oats/soy or oats/milk. Oats/soy and oats/milk regimens further reduced levels of LDL by 5% and 6.5%, respectively.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in postmenopausal women.2 Previous studies on the use of oats have suggested that they effectively lower TC and LDL in people with and without elevated cholesterol levels,3 typically on the order of 3%, a figure that is consistent with the findings of the new study. It has been estimated that for every 1% decrease in TC, there is a corresponding 2 to 3% reduction in mortality from cardiovascular disease.4 Adding oats to a cholesterol-lowering diet is an easy, cost-effective, low-risk approach to preventing heart disease. Other adjunctive treatments (e.g., dietary supplements such as garlic, chromium, niacin, and pantethine) could also help to enhance risk reduction. The possibility of such added benefits has yet to be tested in controlled clinical trials.References