Consumption of oats has long been known to lower plasma total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels, an effect usually attributed to the soluble fibers β-glucans. On the basis of this cholesterol-lowering effect, oats are ascribed cardiovascular health-promoting properties. However, besides cholesterol levels, effects of oats on parameters relating to atherosclerosis development have not been extensively investigated. Since oxidation of lipoproteins and inflammation are characteristics of atherosclerosis in addition to lipid accumulation in the vessel wall, micronutrients in oats (phytochemicals) with antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to an atheroprotective action. Here, we summarize evidence on antiatherogenic properties of oats obtained from in vitro assays, animal experiments, and human studies. Possible effects involving anti-inflammatory and antioxidative actions, as well as preservation of endothelial function, are considered in addition to those related to reduction of plasma cholesterol. Since results of in vitro assays with isolated oat components are difficult to compare with effects of whole oats in humans and experimental animals, more observational studies with isolated oat components or fractions of oats are warranted. Also, there is a lack of epidemiological studies focusing on effects of oat intake on the cardiovascular disease panorama.
© 2012 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.