Canadian research has provided yet more evidence to suggest that eating oats can benefit health.

Humble oats have long been touted for their ability to lower cholesterol and benefit health, but now new Canadian research has provided yet more evidence to suggest that eating oats can lower cholesterol levels and reduce a person's risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Led by Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, from the Risk Factor Modification Centre at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, the study looked at 58 clinical trials involving almost 4,000 people from around the world.

The trials assessed the effect of eating a diet rich in the soluble fiber oat beta-glucan, found in high levels in oats, on LDL cholesterol (also known as "bad" cholesterol) and for the first time on non-HDL cholesterol and apolipoprotein B.

Growing evidence suggests that non-HDL cholesterol (which is total cholesterol minus the "H" or "healthy cholesterol") and the lipoprotein apolipoprotein B (also known as apoB and which carries bad cholesterol through the blood) both give an even more accurate assessment of cardiovascular risk than LDL cholesterol, especially for individuals with metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes who often do not have elevated LDL cholesterol levels.

Dr. Vuksan found that those who ate a diet enriched with around 3.5 grams a day of beta-glucan fiber from oats were found to modestly improve not only LDL cholesterol but also non-HDC and apoB when compared to control diets. The results showed that overall LDL cholesterol was reduced by 4.2 percent, non-HDL cholesterol by 4.8 percent and apoB by 2.3 percent.

However despite the health benefits of oats, oat consumption in Canada has been on the decline for many years.

Dr. Vuksan acknowledged that consuming the recommended amount of oat fiber through eating oatmeal only could be difficult, but consumption could be increased by also eating oat bran.

One cup of cooked oat bran (88 calories) contains the same quantity of beta-glucan as double the amount of cooked oatmeal (166 calories), and can be eaten as a cereal, used in some baked goods or sprinkled on other foods.

The results are published online in the British Journal of Nutrition.