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The phytonutrients in oats and their role in human health: A review of the evidence

Oat research presented at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International Annual Meeting

ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico, October 1, 2013 – Oats may deserve the well-earned status of "super grain", according to research presented at the American Association of Cereal Chemists International annual meeting, being held this week in Albuquerque, NM. World-renowned grain researchers presented compelling data to support the important role that oats can play in improving diet quality and supporting human health.

As a part of the Quaker Oats Center of Excellence's aim to elevate the relevance and benefits of oats through science, agriculture and innovation, YiFang Chu, Ph.D., PepsiCo R&D Nutrition, shared new data about antioxidants in oats (Avena sativa L.) and their role in human health. In the session, "Antioxidants in Grains and Health: Is there a Linkage?" Chu emphasized that oats are a nutritious whole grain with evidence to show that oats are even more complex than previously thought. They possess a wide spectrum of biologically active compounds including carotenoids, tocols (Vitamin E), flavonoids and avenanthramides – a class of polyphenols.

"The polyphenols, avenanthramides, are unique to oats and have been widely used in skincare products because of their anti-inflammatory and anti-itching effects," says Chu. "As scientists continue to link inflammation to chronic diseases, they are also investigating whether bioactivities produced by the polyphenols in oats can be as beneficial from within the body as they are on the skin." There are over 25 different biologically active avenanthramides in oats that look similar chemically, but behave differently. Therefore, adds Chu, "compared to the bioactive compounds identified in other grains—like wheat and rye—oats may be more bioavailable and possess more anti-inflammatory properties."

In addition to avenanthramides, oats and oat products have many bioactive compounds that may provide health benefits. Oats and oat-containing products that meet a minimum level of oat beta-glucan are allowed to bear a Food and Drug Administration-approved health claim for cholesterol-lowering benefits. Studies also suggest oats can enhance satiety and may also help reduce the risk of other chronic conditions.

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