THEY have been a staple part of the Scottish diet for generations.
But Scottish scientists are now seeking volunteers to take part in a study aimed at testing whether porridge and similar foodstuff like oatcakes could hold the key to keeping our gut healthy and protecting Scots against heart disease.
Preliminary findings by the researchers at Aberdeen University’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health have already suggested that eating oats could promote healthy bacteria in the gut and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.
And they are now planning to enlist 40 volunteers for a detailed study investigating the benefits of oat-based foods.The volunteers will be required to eat a diet which contains oat-based products, or refined food such as white bread and rice, to help confirm the results.
Dr Frank Thies, a Reader in Human Nutrition at Aberdeen University, is leading the study with Dr Karen Scott, from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health. He said: “Results from initial studies we have undertaken have indicated that oats have a beneficial effect on the gut and the heart and may protect against heart disease.
“Oats seem to promote healthy bacteria in the gut. They also seem to reduce blood pressure and the levels of cholesterol in the blood which may be responsible for the development of heart disease.”
Dr Thies explained: “Our study will compare the effects of two different diets, one high in oats and one oat-free, on blood pressure, the activity and composition of gut bacteria, as well as cholesterol, sugar and other chemicals in the blood.
“We want to see if oats are indeed making a difference to the health of the gut and with helping reduce blood pressure and therefore the risk of heart attacks.”
A university spokeswoman said: “Volunteers should be aged between 40 and 65, and would be required to alter their diet slightly for 16 weeks, by replacing the type of bread and cereals they eat.
“Initially volunteers will be asked to eat only refined food – like white bread and white rice but not wholegrain food - for four weeks. Recruits will then either remain on this diet or switch to the oat diet.
“The oat diet would involve consuming oat-based foods like porridge and oatcakes. Bread, breakfast cereals, oatcakes and other biscuits, will be provided to the volunteers who will also receive recipe ideas.”
She added: “Recruits would be asked to attend four appointments at the Rowett Institute in Bucksburn, Aberdeenshire where they would fill in questionnaires about what they are eating and how they feel. Their weight and blood pressure would be checked and blood and stool samples would be collected.”
Dr Scott stressed: “Recruiting volunteers who are willing to eat only refined products such as white bread and rice is just as important as those who are happy to include oats in their diet.
“It is the comparison of the two groups which allows us to make our observations, and provides us with important information on the benefits of oats for the gut, heart and arteries”.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the study should contact Dr Lynsey Mills, study co-ordinator, on Lynsey.firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 01224 438679 / 437986.