Evidence mounts in support of the health benefits of regularly consuming oats with a new study suggesting that kids who have a constant intake of oatmeal may lower their risk of obesity.
Researchers from Columbia University in the US presented their findings at the Experimental Biology 2003 conference held last week in San Diego, California. They suggest that the percentage of two-to 18-year-olds that are overweight or at risk of becoming overweight is almost 50 per cent lower in oatmeal-eaters than in children who do not consume the fibre.
In addition, the study found that children who eat oatmeal are about twice as likely to meet fibre intake recommendations, with fibre intakes 17 per cent higher than those who do not eat oatmeal.
"This study found that children and teens who consumed higher intakes of dietary fibre had lower Body Mass Index (BMI) levels or less body fat," said Dr Christine Williams, professor of clinical paediatrics and director of the Children's Cardiovascular Health Centre at Columbia University.
"Our data further suggests children who have diets rich in high-fibre foods, such as oatmeal, as early as age two could help them prevent obesity throughout their lives."
Researchers, funded by Quaker Oats company, analysed data from nearly 10,000 children aged two- to 18-years-old.
"This study is important because it's the first study to use such a large national sample of children and analyse the role of fibre in obesity," said Priscilla Samuel, senior scientist and director of the Nutrition Research Program at Quaker Oats and co-author of the study. "High-fibre foods tend to make kids feel fuller, so they are more likely to eat less. Also, foods that are high in fibre, like oatmeal, are often low in fat and have fewer calories."
Consuming soluble dietary fibre from oats or barley is thought to help reduce high blood cholesterol levels and balance blood glucose peaks, believed to be a result of high beta-glucan content in the cereals. European researchers are currently investigating this mechanism further.