monster's BLOG

October 30th, 2008 . by Catherine Frederico, MS RD LDN

Doesn’t $5 coffee give people a heart attack?Bust-a-Myth oatmeal

I’ve been reading a lot about the new oatmeal that’s being offered by Starbucks.  Starbucks’ oatmeal has become an advertising and marketing darling. Apparently one does well in a crashing financial market by offering customers high-priced oatmeal, apple brand muffins and a protein plate.  Well, at least Starbucks does.  “Oatmeal-onomics” is what they’re calling it.  I like that.

Anyway, onto the myth.  We’ve always heard that oatmeal can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure.  But is this really true?  Where did this idea come from?  Does eating oatmeal really lower your blood pressure?

The source.

This oatmeal-can-lower-blood-pressure idea stems from a study done in 2002, published in Preventative Medicine in Managed Care. Researchers at the University of Minnesota found that beta glucan, the soluble fiber found in oats, can lower blood pressure.  Of the participants who ate oat cereal daily for 12 weeks, 73% were able to reduce or eliminate their blood pressure medication.  Of those in the control group that were fed low-fiber cereals with minimal beta glucan, only 42% were able to reduce or eliminate their high blood pressure medication.  A pretty powerful study.  Makes sense that you can find this on the Quaker Oats site.

The author of the study, Dr. Joseph M. Keenan, MD, interim chair of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Family Practice & Community Health, said he can’t be positive what makes oatmeal so great when it comes to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol.  His best guess is the total and soluble fiber, mineral content, and grain antioxidants found in oats may contribute to favorable blood pressure “possibly via an improvement in insulin sensitivity.”  Interesting.

Another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and conducted by researchers at Simmons College in Boston, found that men who ate the most wholegrain foods, like oats and brown rice, were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes versus men with a high intake of refined grains like pasta and white rice.  Also interesting.

The truth.

The truth is that all oatmeal contains the same amazing beta glucan which can help manage weight, cholesterol, and blood pressure.  However, one must be aware that instant oatmeal packages and regular oatmeal are two different animals.  According to Donna Feldman, MS, RD at Williams College, flavored instant oatmeal contains added sweeteners which means more calories.  Also, a serving size in a packet of instant oatmeal contains less oats than the 1/2 cup dry oats serving size listed on a can of regular oatmeal.  Less oatmeal = less fiber and beta glucan.  However, in general, all oatmeal is good heart-healthy oatmeal.

So go grab yourself some Starbucks oatmeal with dried fruit, nut medley or brown sugar to go along with that $5, 380 calorie Grande Carmel Frappuccino Blended coffee with 2% milk and whip. Perhaps it will all even out in the end.  Maybe play some Playnormous health games just in case.

Oatmeal and blood pressure…busted!

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