Eleven top scientists from around the globe presented the latest findings on the powerful compounds found in oats in a scientific session titled, Physicochemical Properties and Biological Functionality of Oats, at the 247th Annual Conference of the American Chemical Society in Dallas. Scientists described research on the diverse health benefits of oats and emphasized the growing evidence that the type of phenolic compound avenanthramide (AVE)—found only in oats—may possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and anti-cancer properties. The culmination of the studies suggests that oat AVEs may play an important role in protecting the heart.
Eating whole grains is consistently associated with a reduced risk of chronic disease, including cardiovascular disease. Most of the benefits have been attributed to the relatively high fiber, vitamin, mineral and phytochemical content of whole grains. Notably, the soluble fiber beta-glucan found in oats has been recognized for its ability to lower both total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).
"While the data to support the importance of oat beta-glucan remains, these studies reveal that the heart health benefit of eating oats may go beyond fiber," explains the session's presiding co-officer, Dr. Shengmin Sang of the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. "As the scientific investigators dig deeper, we have discovered that the bioactive compounds found in oats—AVEs—may provide additional cardio-protective benefits."
Oat AVEs and cardiovascular disease prevention
New research shows that oat AVEs may be partly responsible for the positive association between oats and heart health. Oliver Chen, Ph.D., of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, presented mechanistic data that demonstrated that the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of AVEs likely contribute to the atheroprotection of oats.
Similarly, Mohsen Meydani, Ph.D., from the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, provided evidence that oat AVEs suppress the production of inflammatory cytokines associated with fatty streak formation in the arteries. In addition, oat AVEs appear to repress the process associated with the development of atherosclerosis.
The experts’ presentations reviewed their findings on the influence of the processing of oats on the glycemic response and bioactive composition, measuring the functionality of oat beta-glucan, the antioxidant potential of oat beta-glucan, the benefits of eating whole grains on chronic disease, and how oats may improve glucose control and lipid metabolism. This high-level scientific session revealed the far-reaching impact this simple grain plays in health promotion and disease prevention.