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Whole Grains Like Oats and Barley Reduce Cholesterol

Whole Grains Like Oats and Barley Reduce Cholesterol

For individuals dignosed with high levels of cholesterol in the blood (hypercholesterolemia), reducing blood cholesterol concentrations is extremely important. Out of control cholesterol levels can lead to serious health problems, such as atherosclerosis, heart attack, stroke, and coronary artery disease. And in some cases, the damage cannot be undone. However, the good news is that there are simple, natural ways individuals can reduce their cholesterol levels, including choosing the right foods and exercising regularly. Eating large servings of whole grains such as oats and barley have been shown to help reduce and normalize cholesterol levels.

How do Whole Grain Oats and Barley Reduce Cholesterol?

Oats and barley are some of the foods that contain a miracle compound: β-glucan, a type of soluble fiber known for it's cholesterol lowering effect. This fiber component in both oats and barley binds to bile acids and drags them out of the body via the feces. Cholesterol is the raw material used by the liver to manufacture bile acids. The loss of bile acids activates a compensatory mechanism that involves increased synthesis of bile acids using cholesterol extracted from low-density lipoprotein (LDL) particles circulating in the blood, thus reducing the level of LDL (bad, or lousy) cholesterol in the blood stream. A 1/3-cup serving of whole grain oatmeal can give you 1.4 grams of this soluble fiber. 

Study Supports Cholesterol-lowering Action of Whole Grains

The findings of a study, published in 2010, reveals that incorporating more whole grains in the diet not only helps stabilize cholesterol levels but also helps reduce the risk of developing other cardiovascular diseases. This study, published in Current Atherosclerosis Reports, investigated the effect of high dietary intake of whole grains on coronary heart disease risk.

The investigators observed that subjects who consistently consumed diets rich in whole grains that contain soluble fiber, such as oats and barley, had lower cholesterol in their blood compared to those who ate diets high in refined grains. The total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels were found to be reduced by 7.7 mg/dL and 7mg/dL respectively in subjects who regularly consumed large servings of oats and barley. Based on the results of this study, the researchers concluded that oats and barley may contribute positively to improving the cholesterol profile of individuals with high serum concentrations of cholesterol.

Eat Your Way to Lower Cholesterol

One excellent as well as delicious way to reduce your cholesterol levels (besides ceasing consumption of animal products) is to fill a portion of your plate with unrefined whole grain oats and barley. The evidence for the cholesterol-lowering effect of whole grains is so strong that the American Heart Association recommends regular consumption of whole grains, including oats and barley, for good cardiovascular health. Make the right dietary choice: start consuming generous portions of unrefined whole grain oats and barley as well as other whole grains. The journey to maintaining a healthy cholesterol level starts with your next meal. 

Additional Information:

(1) Effects of Whole Grains on Coronary Heart Disease Risk

(2) American Heart Association Article on Whole Grains and Fiber

(3) Best Sources of Soluble Fiber From Natural Foods

(4) Diseases Linked to High Cholesterol

(5) Meta-analysis of the association between whole grain intake and coronary heart disease risk

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