Oats for Cholesterol Lowering

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Not only are oats a healthy whole grain that contains fibre beneficial for health; research has suggested the type of soluble fibre oats contain called beta-glucan, may help lower blood cholesterol levels.  Specifically, research has shown beta-glucan oat fibre can help lower total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels.  This is of importance since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.

In fact, Health Canada reviewed the scientific evidence and concluded that evidence exists to support the health claim that links the consumption of beta-glucan oat fibre and blood cholesterol lowering and allows manufactures to put this health claim on certain food labels when specified conditions are met as set out by Health Canada. 

Read on to find out more about beta-glucan oat fibre including how it works, how much is required, the types of oat food products that can carry the health claim from Health Canada and ways to boost your intake of oats.

How does beta-glucan lower cholesterol?

Scientists are still uncovering the details, but think since beta-glucan is a type of soluble fibre, it is thought to form a gel-like material and as it moves through the digestive track it is thought to prevent the absorption of cholesterol by picking up the cholesterol and taking it out with it as waste, thus lowering cholesterol levels. This is one way beta-glucan is thought to lower cholesterol.

What is the beneficial amount needed for cholesterol lowering?

Research suggests that about 3 grams of beta-glucan oat fibre per day is required to reduce cholesterol levels.  When Health Canada approved the health claim for beta-glucan oat fibre and its cholesterol lowering effect, it set the daily amount required as 3 grams.

What sources of beta-glucan oat fibre does the Health Canada health claim apply to?

 There are three sources of beta-glucan oat fibre applicable for the heath claim:

  1. Oat bran
  2. Rolled oats (also known as oatmeal)
  3. Whole oat flour

These sources can be as either foods themselves (oat bran and rolled oats) or as added ingredients (oat bran, rolled oats and whole oat flour) to formulated foods when specified conditions are met as set out by Health Canada.

Ideas to incorporate more oats in your diet

A hearty bowl of oatmeal is a great way to start the day.  

Also consider other ways to incorporate more oats in your diet such as baking with whole oat flour and oat bran.  For example, you can substitute up to 30% oat flour for all-purpose flour.  So, if you are using 1 cup of all-purpose flour in your recipe, you can substitute up to 1/3 cup of oat flour without impacting the texture of the final product. 

Oat bran is high in fibre and can be eaten as a hot cereal or sprinkled on cold cereals or added to yogurt and smoothies.  You can also bake with it and add it to breads, muffins, pancakes or your favourite casseroles.

You can also look for food products in your grocery store that carry the Health Canada approved health claim for oat fibres shown to help lower cholesterol. 


Oats offer many benefits from being a healthy whole grain that also contains the soluble fibre beta-glucan that may help lower cholesterol levels, which is relevant since high cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease.  

Remember a healthy diet is just one aspect of heart health and you should always consult a healthcare professional for advice and management of cholesterol and heart health.

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