Oats Thwart Atherosclerosis

February 16, 2010

2 Min Read
Oats Thwart Atherosclerosis

WASHINGTONAgricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists have discovered certain compounds in oats hinder the ability of blood cells to stick to artery walls, further indicating the same compounds hold promise to provide other health benefits.

Researchers previously showed that phenolic antioxidants in oats actually obstruct the ability of blood cells to stick to artery walls. Compounds, called avenanthramides, from oats significantly suppress the adhesive molecules that glue blood cells to artery walls.

Researchers now are working on determining the anti-inflammatory and other effects of oat avenanthramides and their derivatives using several animal models and colon cancer cell lines for testing purposes.

A 2006 study demonstrated for the first time that avenanthramide-c arrests smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation, which is known to participate in arterial lesion development. Unhealthy SMC growth contributes to the development of atherosclerosis, which can eventually lead to heart attack. Vascular endothelial cells, and to a lesser degree SMCs, also are involved in the synthesis of heart-healthy nitric oxide. The researchers found that avenanthramide-c treatment of human SMC significantly and dose-dependently increased nitric oxide production in both SMC and endothelial cells.

The results suggest that the avenanthramides of oats may contribute to the relaxation of arteries and the prevention of atherosclerosis by increasing nitric oxide production and inhibiting SMC proliferation. Earlier studies conducted by the researchers also showed consumption of oats reduces blood pressure.

Another study suggested avenanthramides decrease expression of inflammatory molecules. Because chronic inflammation of the arterial wall is part of the process that eventually causes disease, inhibition of inflammation through diet, drugs or key nutrients is considered to be of great benefit in preventing atherosclerosis.

Findings from a more recent study suggest consuming oats and oat bran may reduce the risk of colon cancer, not only through high fiber content, but also through avenanthramides that slow or discourage proliferation of colon cancer cells.

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