A new meta-analysis of 17 randomized controlled trials incorporating 916 subjects assessed the effect of beta-glucan supplementation on subject suffering chronically elevated levels of cholesterol in their blood (hypercholesterolemia) was conducted by Zhu et al. The pooled data showed beta glucan supplementation significantly lowered the total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels in these subjects, though no differences in HDL-cholesterol, blood triglycerides and glucose levels were observed. The results demonstrate that oat beta-glucans supplemented in the diet under the guidance of a doctor can provide an alternative treatment strategy to statins or stanols/sterols to enable normalization of blood cholesterol levels in subject with hypercholesteroleamia. Oat beta glucan is derived directly from milled oats, and hence can be considered a natural alternative without significant side effects.
Hypercholesteroleamia (also known as dyslipideamia) is a condition where there is greatly increased level of cholesterol in the blood. The condition appears to have no symptoms, but is believed over many years to cause atherosclerosis which in turn leads to narrowing, and eventual blockage, of major arteries. When this type of blockage occurs in an artery supplying the heart, the result is a myocardial infarction (or heart attack). Beta glucans are believed to reduce blood cholesterol levels by increasing the viscosity of the intestinal contents and most importantly, binding bile salts. This results in reduced absorption of bile salts which encourages the liver to create more bile acids at the expense of circulating cholesterol. The European Union has granted an article 14(1)(a) health claim for oat beta glucan. A claim can be made for food products that are able to provide a total intake of 3 g per day in individual portion doses of not less than 1 g that “oat beta-glucan has been shown to reduce blood cholesterol”. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease.
In this large meta-analysis by Zhu et al, the effect of beta-glucan supplementation on subjects hypercholesterolemia was determined from 17 randomized controlled trials incorporating 916 subjects. The mean effect of beta glucan supplementation was a reduction in total cholesterol of 0.26 mmol/L and in LDL-cholesterol levels of 0.21 mmol/L in these subjects. Hence, the regular supplementation of beta glucan has been demonstrated to achieve a clinically useful reduction in blood cholesterol levels in subjects suffering hypercholesteroleamia.