Study: AVE - the Oat Chemical - May Be The Secret to a Healthy Heart!
It's been a long winter and I'm seeing this reflected in the cholesterol levels of late in my patients. Beyond that wicked dietary corridor of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentines Day, the unusually cold weather means more eating and less physical activity as people feel penned indoors. But alas, spring has arrived! It's time to open the windows and get outside. It's also time to eat better. A staple in cholesterol-lowering initiatives has always been oatmeal. It works, and there is more reason than ever to eat this heart-friendly food.
Research has shown that soluble fiber lowers the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels which increase our risk for coronary artery disease. The higher the LDL, the higher the risk and vice versa. Since foods made from whole oats, oat bran, or oat flour, are rich in the soluble fiber beta-glucan, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have approved the claim that oats are good for the heart. It's not just a theory. It's fact! Furthermore, oatmeal is lower in calories which can lead to weight loss and further cholesterol lowering.
What You DON'T Eat Counts Too!
One important consideration in oatmeal's cholesterol lowering power is something called the "replacement factor." Simply, when you eat oatmeal in the morning, not only are you getting a heart healthy dose of soluble fiber, you're avoiding foods which could negatively impact cholesterol such as eggs and sausage. Over time as these food items are regularly replaced with oatmeal, LDL cholesterol will likely lower. In other words, fill your belly, but fill it with something that will not raise your cholesterol.
(More on getting the most nutrient bang for your caloric buck in Ms. Pasternak's article "The Nutrient-Rich Weight Loss Diet")
Recent findings suggesting a new angle on the heart protective benefits of oats were presented at this year's Annual Conference of the American Chemical Society. In addition to the anti-oxidant and potential anti-cancer benefits, the importance of the oat chemical avenanthramide (AVE) was highlighted.
As it turns out, in addition to the soluble fiber we already knew about, this chemical, only found in oats, possesses important anti-inflammatory properties. Specifically, it is thought that AVE may protect blood vessels - namely the coronary arteries in the heart - from damaging inflammation and plaque build-up which may otherwise lead to heart attacks.
When you think about it, it makes sense. We've been using oats as an anti-inflammatory home remedy for skin rashes and itching for decades!
We require calories for our body to function. Beyond this, however, we must realize that all calories are not equal. Each calorie we take in has the potential to either benefit or hinder our body. Oats are most definitely among the best of foods with a number of benefits for our heart and beyond. I highly recommend that you add them to your diet!