Transcript: Can Oatmeal Help Fatty Liver Disease?
If oatmeal is so powerful that it can clear up some of the ravages of chemotherapy when just applied to the skin, what might it do if we actually ate it? The pharmacology of oatmeal. Oats are reported to possess varied drug-like activities like lowering of blood cholesterol and blood sugar, boosting our immune system, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-atherosclerosis, in addition to being a topical anti-inflammatory, and may also be useful in controlling childhood asthma, body weight, etc.
Whole grain intake in general is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and weight gain. All the cohort studies on type 2 diabetes and heart disease show whole grain intake is associated with lower risk. They observed the same for obesity—consistently less weight gain for those who consumed a few servings of whole grains every day.
Yes, all the forward-looking population studies demonstrate that a higher intake of whole grains is associated with lower body mass index and body weight gain. However, these results do not clarify whether whole grain consumption is simply a marker of a healthier lifestyle, or a factor favoring “per se” lower body weight.
For example, high-whole grain consumers—those who eat whole wheat, brown rice, and have oatmeal for breakfast—tend to be more physically active, smoke less, and consume more fruit, vegetables, and dietary fiber than those who instead reach for Fruit Loops. Statistically, one can control these factors, effectively comparing only nonsmokers to nonsmokers with similar exercise and diet, as most of the studies did, and they still found whole grains to be protective, via a variety of mechanisms.
So for example, in helping with weight control, the soluble fiber of oatmeal forms a gel in the stomach, delaying stomach emptying, making one feel full for a longer period, which helps with weight loss, and then there are other effects in the small and large intestine. So it all seems plausible that whole grain intake does indeed offer direct benefits; however, only results from randomized controlled intervention studies can provide the evidence of cause and effect. In other words, the evidence is clear that oatmeal consumers have lower rates of disease, but that’s not the same as proving that if we start eating more oatmeal, our risk will drop. To know that we need an interventional trial, ideally a blinded study where you give half the people oatmeal, and the other half fake placebo oatmeal that looks and tastes like oatmeal to see if it actually works. As you can imagine this has not been done, until now. Double-blinded randomized trial of overweight and obese men and women, and almost 90% of the real oatmeal-treated subjects had reduced body weight–compared to no weight loss in the control group–a slimmer waist on average, a 20-point drop in cholesterol, and an improvement in liver function.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, meaning a fatty liver caused by excess food rather than excess drink, is now the most common cause of liver disease in the United States, found during autopsy in up to 90% of obese individuals, and can lead in rare cases to cirrhosis of the liver, cancer of the liver, and death. Theoretically, whole grains could help prevent and treat fatty liver disease, but this is the first time it had actually been put to the test like this. A follow-up study in 2014 confirmed these findings of a protective role of whole grains, but refined grains were associated with increased risk. So one would not expect to get such wonderful results from Wonder Bread.
To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Katie Schloer.
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