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Oats

What is it?

Oat is a plant. People use the seed (oat), leaves and stem (oat straw), and bran (the outer layer of whole oats) to make medicine.

Oat bran and whole oats are used for high blood pressure; high cholesterol; diabetes; and digestion problems including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), diverticulosis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), diarrhea, and constipation. They are also used for preventing heart disease, gallstones, colon cancer, and stomach cancer.

People use oats for joint pain (rheumatism), fatigue, a fatigue-related condition called neurasthenia syndrome, withdrawal from nicotine and narcotics, and lowering high uric acid levels that can cause gout. Oats are also used for anxiety, excitation and stress; as well as for weak bladder and kidney ailments. Other uses include connective tissue disorders, skin diseases, fat redistribution syndrome associated with HIV treatment, and as a tonic.

Oat straw is used for the flu, swine (H1N1) flu, coughs, bladder disorders, joint pain, eye ailments, frostbite, gout, and a skin infection called impetigo.

Topically, oats are used for skin conditions including itchiness, dryness, oiliness, weeping eczema, and contact dermatitis. Oats are also applied to the skin for chicken pox, osteoarthritis, liver disorders, and added to foot baths for chronically cold or tired feet.

In foods, oats are used as a grain or cereal.

In manufacturing, oats are included in some bath products and soaps.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for OATS are as follows:

Likely effective for...

  • Reducing the risk of heart disease, when oat bran is used as part of a diet low in fat and cholesterol. Current FDA regulations and guidelines allow food products containing whole oats that provide 750 mg of soluble fiber per serving to be labeled with the health claim that the product may reduce the risk of heart disease when included as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Lowering cholesterol. Eating oats, oat bran, and other soluble fibers can modestly reduce total and “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol when consumed as part of a diet low in saturated fat. For each gram of soluble fiber (beta-glucan) consumed, total cholesterol decreases by about 1.42 mg/dL and LDL by about 1.23 mg/dL. Eating 3-10 grams of soluble fiber can reduce total cholesterol by about 4-14 mg/dL. But there’s a limit. Doses of soluble fiber greater than 10 grams per day don't seem to increase effectiveness.
    Eating three bowls of oatmeal (28 gram servings) daily can decrease total cholesterol by about 5 mg/dL. Oat bran products (oat bran muffins, oat bran flakes, oat bran Os, etc.) may vary in their ability to lower cholesterol, depending on the total soluble fiber content. Whole oat products might be more effective in lowering LDL and total cholesterol than foods containing oat bran plus beta-glucan soluble fiber.
    The FDA recommends that approximately 3 grams of soluble fiber be taken daily to lower blood cholesterol levels. However, this recommendation doesn’t match research findings; according to controlled clinical studies, at least 3.6 grams of soluble fiber daily is needed to lower cholesterol.

Possibly effective for...

  • Reducing blood sugar levels in people with diabetes when oat bran is used in the diet. Eating oats and oat bran for 6 weeks significantly decreases before-meal blood sugar, 24-hour blood sugar, and insulin levels in people with type 2 diabetes. There is some evidence that consuming 50 grams of oat bran daily, containing 25 grams of soluble fiber, might be more effective than the moderate fiber diet of 24 grams daily recommended by the American Diabetes Association.
  • Preventing stomach cancer when oats and oat bran are used in the diet.

Possibly ineffective for...

  • Preventing cancer in the large intestine (colon cancer) when oat bran is used in the diet.
  • Lowering high blood pressure.

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Preventing fat redistribution syndrome in people with HIV disease. Eating a high-fiber diet, including oats, with adequate energy and protein might prevent fat accumulation in people with HIV. A one-gram increase in total dietary fiber may decrease the risk of fat accumultion by 7%.
  • Blocking fat from being absorbed from the gut.
  • Preventing gallstones.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Diverticulosis.
  • Inflammatory bowel disease.
  • Constipation.
  • Anxiety.
  • Stress.
  • Nerve disorders.
  • Bladder weakness.
  • Joint and tendon disorders.
  • Gout.
  • Kidney conditions.
  • Opium and nicotine withdrawal.
  • Skin diseases.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate oats for these uses.

How does it work?

Oats might help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels and control appetite by causing a feeling of fullness. Oat bran might work by blocking the absorption from the gut of substances that contribute to heart disease, high cholesterol, and diabetes.

Are there safety concerns?

Oat bran is LIKELY SAFE for most people, including pregnant and breast-feeding women. It can cause intestinal gas and bloating. To minimize side effects, start with a low dose and increase slowly to the desired amount. Your body will get used to oat bran and the side effects will likely go away.

Putting oat-containing products on the skin can cause some people to break out.

Special precautions & warnings:

Difficulty swallowing food or chewing problems: If you have swallowing problems (from a stroke, for example) or if you have trouble chewing because of missing teeth or poorly fitting dentures, it’s best to avoid eating oats. Poorly chewed oats can cause blockage of the intestine.

Disorders of the digestive tract including the esophagus, stomach, and intestines: Avoid eating oat products. Digestive problems that could extend the length of time it takes for your food to be digested could allow oats to block your intestine.

Are there interactions with medications?

It is not known if this product interacts with any medicines.

Before taking this product, talk with your health professional if you take any medications.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

There are no known interactions with herbs and supplements.

Are there interactions with foods?

There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

BY MOUTH:
  • For high cholesterol: 56-150 grams of whole oat products such as oat bran or oatmeal, containing 3.6-10 grams of beta-glucan (soluble fiber) daily as part of a low-fat diet. One-half cup (40 grams) of Quaker oatmeal contains 2 grams of beta-glucan; one cup (30 grams) of Cheerios contains one gram of beta-glucan.
  • For lowering blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes: high fiber foods such as whole oat products containing 25 grams of soluble fiber are used daily. 38 grams of oat bran or 75 grams of dry oatmeal contains about 3 grams of beta-glucan.

Other names

Avena, Avena Fructus, Avena byzantina, Avena orientalis, Avena sativa, Avena volgensis, Avenae Herba, Avenae Stramentum, Avoine, Avoine Entière, Avoine Sauvage, Cereal Fiber, Dietary Fiber, Farine d’Avoine, Fibre Alimentaire, Fibre Céréalière, Fibre d’Avoine, Folle Avoine, Grain d’Avoine, Green Oat, Green Oat Grass, Groats, Gruau, Oat, Oat Bran, Oat Fiber, Oat Flour, Oat Fruit, Oat Grain, Oat Grass, Oat Herb, Oat Straw, Oat Tops, Oatstraw, Oatmeal, Oats, Paille, Paille d’Avoine, Porridge, Rolled Oats, Son d’Avoine, Straw, Whole Oat, Whole Oats, Wild Oat, Wild Oat Herb, Wild Oats Milky Seed.

Methodology

To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.

References

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Last reviewed - 05/27/2015