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Beta Glucans in Cereals: The New Cholesterol-Lowering, Heart Disease Cure?

Dec 08, 2016 07:22 AM EST
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Study suggests that cereals, such as oats, have cholesterol-lowering properties that can eventually prevent heart disease.
(Photo : Dan Kitwood / Staff)

A bowl of cereals a day can keep the doctor away?

This is what a breakthrough discovery from the University of Queensland has revealed. In an effort to find a scientific explanation why and how breakfast cereals, such as oats, can lower cholesterol in the bloodstream, thus decreasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases, researchers at the University of Queensland's Centre for Nutrition and Food Sciences have identified a novel mechanism: beta glucans.

Sponsored by the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls, researchers have found a new function of beta glucans, a discovery that could pave the way to various approaches in enhancing the cholesterol-fighting properties of other cereals, including wheat.

"We've known for some time that beta glucans in oats reduce blood cholesterol, but now we've discovered one of the ways in which they do it," University of Queensland Professor Mike Gidley said.

On the other hand, the study's lead author, Dr. Purnima Gunness, pointed out that the results of their study has put into question the existing theory that beta glucans "mop up" the bile, which is secreted during digestion, and prevent its absorption in the small intestine, Eureka Alert reports.

"It was thought that the body's use of cholesterol to make new bile was one of the mechanisms for how beta glucans reduced the amount of cholesterol in the blood stream," Dr. Gunness explained.

The animal study involving pigs as model for humans proved that beta glucans found in oats actually lowered, instead of just maintaining, the total level of circulating bile in the body. "We aren't quite sure yet why, but in the presence of beta glucan there is much less circulating bile. This means that fats, which bile helps break down, are not digested as rapidly or as completely," Dr. Gunness said.

But on the subject of beta glucans' cholesterol-lowering benefits Dr. Gunness stated, "Now that we know how the beta glucans positively impact on cholesterol levels, it will help us identify other fibres in plant cell walls that may have a similar effect," the Medical Xpress writes.

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