Oat Beta Glucan – Nature’s Heart Healthy Wonder

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

February 10, 2020

Oat Beta Glucan – Nature’s Heart Healthy Wonder
Fiber - you know you need it in your diet. Unless you actively seek plant-based foods in your diet, chances are you need more – a lot more. Almost the entire American population consumes less than the recommended intake of dietary fiber. Fiber intake may seem like something only for someone with gut problems, or maybe it brings memories of nasty tasting sludge. Fiber intake from wholesome foods and supplemental sources like oat beta glucan provide more benefits than you likely ever imagined.

Fiber Basics

Fiber is the part of plant foods that your body can’t digest or absorb. This essential dietary element provides the roughage or bulk needed for bowel material. Fiber isn’t digested or absorbed into your system like foods and nutrients. Rather fiber gives something for your gut microbiome to literally “chew on” for its own benefit. Fiber intake with healthy diet impacts a host of other functions besides the daily constitution.

Plants provide fiber. Meats, dairy, eggs, fish, poultry, and fats do not naturally contain fiber unless it’s added or combined with foods from plants. Fiber comes as soluble or insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and becomes gel-like. Psyllium, oats, apples, citrus fruits, peas, and beans, etc. provide soluble fiber. Soluble fiber aids your body with blood sugar and cholesterol metabolism.

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. This type of fiber provides bulk to your stool and is essential to normal gut motility. Whole grains, bran, seeds and nuts, beans, potatoes, cruciferous and other veggies, etc. provide insoluble fiber.

Daily Intake

The Institute of Medicine recommended minimum daily fiber intake for women and men age 50 and younger is 25 and 38 grams/day. If you are 51 or older, you need 21 and 30 grams/day respectively of fiber. Those who consume the typical Western diet get about 10-15 grams or less of fiber per day. Keto Diets, Paleo Diets, grain-free, gluten-free, and other restricted diets commonly fall very short of necessary daily fiber intake.

Oat Beta Glucan as Part of a Heart Healthy Diet

Oats provide a highly beneficial soluble fiber called oat beta glucan. It supports gut health but also impacts heart health, cholesterol and overall metabolism. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved oat beta glucan for a heart healthy claim. Consumption of soluble fiber rich foods like oats and oat beta glucan as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Consumption of at least 3 grams per day of beta glucan soluble fiber supports healthy cholesterol metabolism. Other countries across the globe have also approved similar claims with healthy diets that include oat beta glucan and heart health.

Oat beta glucan supports cholesterol metabolism and heart health due to its viscous or gel-like properties. Oat beta glucan is not broken down by stomach acid or pancreatic enzymes. This gel-like fiber enables it travel to the colon, impacting your gut flora where the microbiome manages cholesterol metabolism.

Blood Sugar and Weight Management Support

Recent research showed that obese mice fed a high fat diet and supplemented with oat beta glucan fiber had very positive metabolic effects. Fat cell size reduced in the white fat tissues and healthy cholesterol profiles occurred. Analysis showed increased fat burning and metabolic activity with decreased levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY). Excess NPY causes you to crave and eat more food, which contributes to abdominal fat.

Fiber naturally helps your body manage blood sugar. A small, recent study evaluated oat beta glucan assistance in managing blood sugar spikes after a meal. Healthy adults were given various doses of oat beta glucan mixed in water before eating a meal of white bread. Intake of the oat beta glucan before the meal provided a buffer against the sugar shock of white bread. Individuals who consumed higher amounts of the fiber had more significant results.

In another study, mice were given oat beta glucan. Study results showed support with liver-blood sugar metabolism while pancreas-insulin function was less stressed.

Gut – Heart Relationship

In recent years, researchers have been looking at the interrelationships between systems in the body. Your diet and gut health is at center of this web of interaction. Rather than thinking of fiber needed only for the gut, its dietary intake significantly affects the gut-heart relationship with the gut flora-metabolism interaction. It plays a significant helpful role in keeping your intestinal barrier in optimal condition, which aids in protecting your whole body.

Fiber acts as a prebiotic that gut bacteria uses to flourish and grow. Beneficial bacteria Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus species and others in the good flora category called Bacteroidetes use fibers like oat beta glucan to help do their job with managing appetite, blood pressure, weight management, and cholesterol metabolism. Less helpful flora, i.e. Firmicutes promote fat storage and increased appetites, but are crowded out with higher dietary fiber intake.

Fiber is needed to keep your intestinal barrier intact because it helps produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFA) like butyric acid. SCFAs are used by the colon to protect and build the gut mucosal lining. If your diet lacks fiber, your gut flora uses the intestinal mucosal barrier as its nutrient source in order to sustain itself. This is a recipe for imbalanced healthy gut flora and insufficient SCFA, which increases the permeability of the intestinal barrier. This allows toxins and immune compounds to enter your circulatory system and systemically stress your body

Magnitude of Fiber Benefits

The magnitude by which fiber impacts heart health, cholesterol and other health perimeters was recently summarized in the journal Lancet. This February 2019 publication evaluated almost 135 million person-years of data from 185 prospective studies and 58 clinical trials. Individuals who consumed at least 25-29 grams or higher of dietary fiber per day had “striking” benefits to overall health.

Dietary Choices

Oats, barley, some mushrooms, seaweed, algae, and other grains contain beta glucan. Compared to other common dietary fibers, research shows that oat beta glucan soluble fiber provides exceptional benefits for gut and overall health. If you are in the 95 percent of the population who fail to consume adequate dietary fiber, consider adding some oat beta glucan in your diet. If you are watching carb intake or desire a higher fiber intake for a busy lifestyle, we offer oat beta glucan in our Fiber Helper and Daily Protein Plus Oat.

Our Fiber Helper product has a smooth, light oat taste. It is not gritty and mixes easily in water or juice. It is non-GMO and glyphosate free.. Psyllium husks and arabinogalactan fiber have been added to it for a complete fiber product that provides 10 grams of fiber per serving. When it comes to fiber taste and ease of use, it is quite pleasant and has no added flavors or sweeteners.

Synergistic Support 

Oat beta glucan may be combined with other nutrients for heart health. A December 2019 study showed when oat beta glucan was combined with the omega-3 oil DHA, the effects became synergistic.

When it was combined with phytosterols or plant sterol compounds, it too created a dynamic synergistic response for cholesterol metabolism. Plant phytosterols are found in foods like beans, peas, lentils, seeds and nuts, sesame oil, and lesser amounts in fruits and vegetables.

Fiber Challenge

New Year’s Resolutions and the goals for a healthier you are hopefully still on your mind. One way to help you achieve this is to take a fiber challenge. Write down the foods that you consume each day for three days. Don’t change your diet while doing the challenge. Calculate the number of grams of fiber that you consume and then compare it to the recommendations listed above. Food labels, restaurant menus and their websites, nutrition books, and numerous other websites provide resources on the amount of fiber in foods.

If you consume about 25-35 grams of fiber per day, good for you! You are in the top 5 percent of the American population with fiber consumption. If your fiber intake was average, i.e. about 15 grams or less per day, then it is imperative to change your diet and consider adding a fiber supplement.

For everyone, try another challenge with an additional 10-30 grams of fiber per day and see what happens to your general well-being over the course of the next several months. Gradually increase fiber intake and the amount of water consumed to help your body adjust to the changes.

Today’s fiber intake is still far below ancestral consumption of fiber which was closer to 100-150 grams per day. With all of the different diets that have eliminated grains or contain little fiber, I believe the lack of fiber is as much or more of a challenge to health as the high consumption of sugar and sedentary lifestyles. Simply put – your body needs fiber. What’s your fiber score?

You may find these articles helpful: 

Leaky Gut Syndrome: More Than Just a Gut Problem 

Atrial Fibrillation Linked to Stress, Diabetes, Dental Health, and Gut Health 

How Imbalanced Digestive Bacteria Cause Obesity & Heart Disease  

Heart Health and Alzheimer’s Connected 

How Healthy is Your Gallbladder?  

Butyric Acid Improves Fat Burning Metabolism

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