Oats and Health

 

Oats are a very versatile and nutritive part of the diet. Oats are rich in protein, essential fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. Most appreciated oats are for its physiological responses linked with reduction of blood cholesterol levels, reduction of blood glucose rise and gut health. The EU commission has authorized four health claims concerning oats. In addition to cholesterol lowering and glycaemic response effect there is data available on the immunostimulation properties of oats and effect of oats on the gut health.

Intake of oat β-glucan is linked to three specific physiological responses:
1) a reduction of blood cholesterol levels (see section Cholesterol)
2) a reduction of blood glucose rise (see section Glycaemic response)
3) an increase in faecal bulk (see section Gut health)

There is growing evidence that oat β-glucan could have a positive effect on perceptions of satiety. Oatmeal suppresses appetite, increases satiety, and reduces desire to eat, and prospective energy intake compared to the RTEC. (See Satiety effects of beta-glucan)

Oats have also been approved by the European Commission (2009) as an ingredient in gluten-free labeled products (if cross-contamination from wheat, barley and rye can be avoided and the gluten content of the oat products remains below 20 mg/kg). (See Oats ad Celiac disease)


Legislation on health claims for oats in EU and USA

Health claims approved by the European Commission

A health claim is any statement about a relationship between food and health. The Commission authorizes different health claims provided they are based on scientific evidence and can be easily understood by consumers. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is responsible for evaluating the scientific evidence supporting health claims. Health claims concerning oats (4 statements), which are currently authorized, are shown in table 1.


Table 1. Health claims concerning oats in EU ¹ 

Claim type Nutrient Claim Conditions of use of the claim / Restrictions of use / Reasons for non-authorisation
  Substance, food or food category    
Art.13(1) Beta-glucans Beta-glucans contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels The claim may be used only for food which contains at least 1 g of beta-glucans from oats, oat bran, barley, barley bran, or from mixtures of these sources per quantified portion. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3 g of beta-glucans from oats, oat bran, barley, barley bran, or from mixtures of these beta-glucans.
Art.13(1) Beta-glucans from oats and barley Consumption of beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of a meal contributes to the reduction of the blood glucose rise after that meal The claim may be used only for food which contains at least 4 g of beta-glucans from oats or barley for each 30 g of available carbohydrates in a quantified portion as part of the meal. In order to bear the claim information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained by consuming the beta-glucans from oats or barley as part of the meal.
Art.13(1) Oat grain fibre Oat grain fibre contributes to an increase in faecal bulk The claim may be used only for food which is high in that fibre as referred to in the claim HIGH FIBRE as listed in the Annex to Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006.
Art.14(1)(a) Oat beta-glucan Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower/reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease Information shall be given to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 3 g of oat beta-glucan. The claim can be used for foods which provide at least 1g of oat beta glucan per quantified portion.

 ¹ European Commission. Health and consumers. EU register on nutrition and health claims.

 

Health claims approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration

U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the safety of substances added to food and how most food is processed, packaged, and labeled. Among the claims that can be used on food and dietary supplement labels are three categories of claims that are defined by statute and/or FDA regulations: health claims, nutrient content claims, and structure/function claims. Health claims concerning oats, are shown in table 2.


Table 2. Approved health claims in food labeling in USA
¹ 

Approved Claims Requirements for the Food Claim Requirements Model Claim, Statements
Soluble fiber from certain foods and risk of coronary heart disease      
  Low saturated fat, low cholesterol, low fat, and the food product must include one or more of the following whole oat or barley foods: Required terms: Soluble fiber from foods such as [name of soluble fiber source, and, if desired, name of food product], as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of [name of food product] supplies __ grams of the (necessary daily dietary intake for the benefit) soluble fiber from (name of soluble fiber source) necessary per day to have this effect.
(21 CFR 101.81) 1) oat bran, "Heart disease" or "coronary heart disease." "Saturated fat" and "cholesterol."  
  2) rolled oats, In specifying the substance the claim uses the term "soluble fiber" qualified by the name of the eligible source of the soluble fiber, which is either whole oat or barley or psyllium seed husk.  
  3) whole oat flour,    
  4) whole grain barley or dry milled barley, and the whole oat or barley foods must contain at least 0.75 g of soluble fiber per RACC of the food product; or Claim specifies the daily dietary intake of the soluble fiber source necessary to reduce the risk of CHD.  
       
  Oatrim that contains at least 0.75 g of beta-glucan soluble per RACC of the food product; or Claim specifies the amount of soluble fiber in one serving of the product.  
       
  Psyllium husk that contains at least 1.7 g of soluble fiber per RACC of food product. Additional Required Label Statement  
    Foods bearing a psyllium seed husk health claim must also bear a label statement concerning the need to consume them with adequate amounts of fluids; e.g., "NOTICE: This food should be eaten with at least a full glass of liquid. Eating this product without enough liquid may cause choking. Do not eat this product if your have difficulty in swallowing."  
  Eligible Sources of Soluble Fiber (21 CFR 101.17(f))  
  Beta-glucan soluble fiber from the following whole oat and barley sources:    
  1) Oat bran    
  2) Rolled Oats    
  3) Whole Oat Flour    
  4) Oatrim    
  5) Whole Grain Barley and Dry Milled Barley    
  6) Barley Beta Fiber    
  7) Soluble fiber from psyllium husk with purity of no less than 95%    
  The amount of soluble fiber per RACC must be declared in nutrition label.    

 
¹ U.S. Food and Drug Administration, guidance for Industry: a food labeling guide.


Oats have also been approved by the European Commission (2009) as an ingredient in gluten-free labeled products (if cross-contamination from wheat, barley and rye can be avoided and the gluten content of the oat products remains below 20 mg/kg).