Eating wholegrain oat cereal every day can help cut blood pressure or reduce the need for blood pressure medication, according to researchers from the US.
Writing in the April issue of The Journal of Family Practice, lead researcher Joel J. Pins of the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis said that his team had seen a substantial reduction in bad cholesterol levels in patients given oats over a six week period.
Some 45 volunteers with high blood pressure were fed a daily dose of 137 grams of oat cereal, containing around 12 grams of total fibre and six grams of soluble fibre. A separate group of 43 patients with the same symptoms were given wheat cereals with total fibre of approximately 3 grams and soluble fibre of less than 1.1 grams.
A total of 73 per cent of the participants eating oats every day were able to reduce their blood pressure medication, Pins said, while their total and LDL ('bad') cholesterol levels dropped by 15 and 16 per cent respectively over a 12-week period. Patients' blood glucose levels also improved significantly.
The results were far less impressive for the patients eating the wheat cereal. Just 42 per cent of that group were able to cut their blood pressure medication, and they showed no significant reduction in cholesterol levels.
Pins noted that once the patients stopped eating the oat cereal on a daily basis, some two-thirds of them were forced to return to their original blood pressure medication after six weeks.
A different study, also carried out by Pins and his colleagues in Minneapolis, focused on a smaller group of 18 people with untreated high blood pressure. They too were fed an oatmeal diet and showed a significant reduction in blood pressure and cholesterol levels. The control group, which this time was fed a normal diet, showed no such improvements.