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Oat fiber is a product made from oat hulls. Fiber is a very important component for health. Oat fiber is a soluble fiber believed to reduce cholesterol, decrease risk of heart disease and promote bowel health.
Oat fiber may also help people eat less and lose weight by making them feel more full. Oat fiber is used to make cereals, baked goods and snacks.
Oats are a rich source of fiber. According to a fact sheet on dietary fiber by the Colorado State University Extension , fiber is the part of plants that the human body cannot digest, though a small amount is metabolized by bacteria residing in the lower gut. Fiber is sometimes called bulk or roughage.
The body is able to digest and absorb other parts of plant foods, including fat, carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals, but not fiber. Therefore, fiber moves through the digestive tract and is excreted out of the body pretty much intact, according to the Mayo Clinic . Although it is not absorbed, fiber still plays critical roles in human health.
Fiber contains gum, pectin, cellulose, lignin, hemicellulose and mucilage. Fiber from oat bran contains water-soluble fiber, including pectin and gum. This type of fiber is known to help lower cholesterol and blood sugar, as well as slow passage of food through the intestinal tract. Water-soluble fiber is found in plant cells; the other type of fiber, insoluble, is in the walls of plant cells. Cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin are all insoluble fiber.
Oat fiber is grown using either conventional or organic farming practices. It is processed from oat hulls. Oat fiber is found in cereals, bakery products, snacks and meat extenders. According to FoodProductDesign.com, there are two types of oat fiber sold. One has standard absorption and the other is a higher absorption type, meaning it can absorb more moisture.
Oat fiber can help lower cholesterol, which reduces risk of heart disease. According to the Healthful Life Project of the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey , oat fiber, nuts and plant sterols are cholesterol-lowering substances.
Blood cholesterol levels of less than 200 mg/dl is linked to a decreased risk of heart disease, according to Colorado State University. Water soluble fiber attaches to bile acids and because fiber gets excreted by the body it is believed that eating large amounts of fiber leads to increased excretion of bile acids. This is important for lowering total cholesterol in the body because the body utilizes cholesterol to make bile acids. If the body excretes bile than it must use up more cholesterol to make more bile.
Colorado State University Extension states that oat fiber is more effective than wheat fiber for lowering cholesterol.
The size of density of LDL cholesterol particles affects the risk of heart disease, not just the number of cholesterol. LDL is considered the "bad" cholesterol. Small dense LDL particles seem to be more atherogenic than bigger particles, according to a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in August 2002. More atherogenic means more able to make the plaques that line the walls of arteries, contributing to clogged, hard arteries that contribute to heart disease risk.
People with more small LDL particles have a greater risk of heart disease, but eating oat fiber lowered concentrations of small dense particles in the study. The soluble fiber in oats appeared to alter the size and density of LDL cholesterol. Oat fiber consumption was shown to more beneficial than eating wheat cereal. The researchers stated that this may contribute to oat fiber's cardioprotective effect.
Participants were all overweight men between the ages of 50 and 75 years of age. They consumed 14 grams of dietary fiber per day either from wheat cereal or oat cereal. Neither substance had an adverse effect on HDL, which is the "good" cholesterol.
Oats contain a substance called beta-glucan, which is a soluble fiber. When the soluble fiber passes through the intestines, it is fermented and helps to decrease the speed at which glucose is absorbed. Glucose is blood sugar; the quicker glucose is absorbed, the more it elevates blood sugar. The body then must produce insulin to lower glucose and keep blood sugar level. A slower absorption rate is preferred for longer lasting energy and less disruption in blood sugar.
The beta-glucan also stimulates the growth of "good" bacteria in the gut, according to an article published on FoodNavigator-USA.com in February 2008. This is the same kind of response promised by probiotic supplements. Healthy bacteria, or flora, in the digestive tract is necessary for optimal health.
Scientists from North Dakota State University and the Agricultural Research Services believe that a new type of oat fiber called HiFi may provide increased nutritional benefits in foods due to a higher beta-glucan content. HiFi has double the beta-glucan than most whole-grain products on the market.
The effects of oat fiber and Lactobacillus strains on rats with enterocolitis was the focus of a study in "Gastroenterology" journal published in August 1996.
Enterocolitis is characterized by inflammation of the colon and small intestine. Lactobacillus strains are "good" bacteria. The results found that the rats who received oat fiber and Lactobacillus lost less weight and had reduced intestinal permeability. High intestinal permeability is also known as leaky gut syndrome; it is when the intestinal walls begin to allow large molecules to pass into the bloodstream that would otherwise be digested or excreted.
The study also found that the rats demonstrated increased bowel mucosal mass, which is the protective lining in the stomach.
Consuming oat fiber can be part of a high-fiber diet. High-fiber diets provide several benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fiber is essential for bowel health. Eating a diet rich in fiber may reduce the risk of hemorrhoids. It can also lower the risk of diverticular disease, which is characterized by small pouches in the colon.
Some studies have shown that more dietary fiber lower blood pressure and decreases inflammation. This is beneficial for heart health.
Fiber contributes to weight loss because eating fiber increases satiety, which is the feeling of fullness. People can fill up on less overall food if the meal is high in fiber and may want to eat less frequently, thereby lowering daily calorie consumption.
A high-fiber diet assists to regular blood glucose levels. Soluble fiber is particularly useful for slowing sugar absorption. This is especially important for people with diabetes who have difficultly regulating blood glucose levels. A diet high in soluble fiber may even help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes.
Insoluble fiber, not from oats, also helps to make stools larger, heavier and softer for easier defecation. This reduces the chances of becoming constipated. It may also reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Some research indicates that fiber may decrease risk of colorectal cancer. However, some studies show no benefits.
Oat fiber contributes to meeting the recommended intake of fiber necessary for optimal health. According to Colorado State University Extension, most people in the United States eat only around 14 grams of fiber daily. This is significantly less than is recommended by the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. People should consume around 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories they eat daily. A person's age and gender also factors into recommended intake amounts.
Current Dietary Reference Intakes for fiber establishes the ideal intake amounts for fiber. These amounts were developed by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences Research Council. The daily DRIs are:
Male Children and Teenagers
Female Children and Teenagers
Increasing the amount of fiber in one's diet can lead to side effects, including intestinal gas, abdominal cramps and bloating. Excessive fiber may also interfere with the absorption of important minerals, such as zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium, according to the "New York Times". Gradually increasing fiber lowers the risk of side effects.