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Oatmeal porridge has an effect on gut microbial functions and may possess potential prebiotic properties

18 November 2015

Oats have been consumed around the world for thousands of years. It is popular for the grain to be eaten as porridge for a healthy start to the day. Researches in Norway and Sweden have investigated the effect of regular consumption of oat porridge on gut microflora function.

Ten healthy volunteers consumed 60 g of water-based oatmeal porridge every day for a week after avoiding all oat-containing foods for 2 weeks before the study. In the study, the following properties were measured before and after dietary intervention: lactulose induced intestinal gas production, faecal levels of SCFA (short chain fatty acids), β-galactoside and urease.

No significant changes were found in the amount of gas production or the levels of SCFA. However, approximately 3-fold decrease in faecal levels of β-galactoside and a 20% decrease in urease were observed. β-galactoside has a similar catalytic activity as human lactase, and the group suggested that the decrease was due to the lack of need for the enzyme when eating porridge. Urease is a general marker for unfavourable gut microflora; the introduction of oats into the diet appears to have had prebiotic action.

The change in microflora-associated characteristics, namely the decrease in urease and β-galactoside shows that the microflora adapt to the consumption of oat porridge. Further research would be needed to establish the beneficial microflora effects of oats in humans. The team noted that the faecal levels measured do not necessarily reflect the enzyme levels in the colon.

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