Oatmeal: Weight Loss Helper or Cause of Weight Gain


Is it just the fiber that makes Oatmeal a good choice or is there more to it?

Oatmeal with berries and nuts

Oatmeal with berries and nuts

It is estimated that during the Bronze Age (3200-600 BC), oats were first cultivated in Switzerland.  Oats had been around for a long time before that but were probably thought of as more of a weed than a food crop.  Times have changed.  Now, oats are a versatile food source we can enjoy, may help us lose weight, and have other health benefits.

Oats are high in fiber, high in protein, and a “good” source of fat.  Oats keep you feeling full.  The less processed the oats are, such as steel-cut or Irish oats, the longer it takes for the body to break it down.  The longer the breakdown time, the longer you feel full.  But there is more to oats.  They contain beta-glucans and avenanthramides.  

Why are these two compounds important?

Oat fiber beta-glucan is a form of soluble fiber found in the cell wall of oats.  Beta-glucans are also found in some cereal grains, baker’s yeast, seaweed, algae, and certain mushrooms.  The reason for mentioning that beta-glucans are also in other foods is that research shows you need to consume about 3 grams of beta-glucans daily to achieve the greatest benefits.  To get 3 grams of beta-glucans from oats, you would need to eat 1-½ cups of cooked oatmeal.  One cup is a serving.  So, you would either need to eat an extra half-serving of oats or consume other foods that contain beta-glucan to reap the benefits.

Oatmeal cookies with raisins

Oatmeal cookies with raisins:  Not the best source but in moderation it is ok.

Beta-glucans are good for high cholesterol and diabetes but have also been used in the treatment of cancer and HIV/AIDS. As a form of fiber, beta-glucans may prevent the absorption of cholesterol from food in the stomach and intestines. Because fiber slows the absorption of food, beta-glucans may also help reduce blood sugar spikes and insulin response. Some researchers have found a correlation between higher levels of beat-glucans and Peptide Y-Y, an appetite control-related hormone[1].

Beta-glucans can boost the immune system so people with an overactive immune system should be cautious and speak to their healthcare provider before increasing consumption[2].

Avenanthramides are a soluble phenolic compound found mostly in oats.  They are also found in cabbage and eggs. Research has shown that avenanthramides have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-proliferative (prevents or retards the spread of cells into surrounding tissue) and anti-itching properties which may have benefits for coronary heart disease, some cancers, and skin irritation.  Avenanthramides are still being studied, and no guidelines have been set for the amount to consume to achieve benefits.

While beta-glucans do aid in weight loss, what is this connection between avenanthramides and weight loss? There isn’t one yet.  Avenanthramides are a bonus to food that is already a healthy option.  For many people, losing weight is not just about looking better, but about being healthier. If you are going to choose a cereal grain to include in a meal, it is best to select the one with the most health benefits.  Who

Bowl of oat porridge

Bowl of oat porridge

knows what we will find out with more research on oatmeal, but one thing is sure, it is a healthy addition to any diet, and it will help with weight loss if you eat it in moderation. 

Oatmeal can be an important food to help with weight loss.  

We have all read about the evils of carbohydrates and have heard friends and relatives laud the benefits of the low-carb lifestyle.  Inevitably this means that oatmeal, which is high in complex carbohydrates should be no-go to those trying to lose weight.  Unlike the sugary breakfast cereals which are full of refined carbohydrates and sugars, the body digests oatmeal at a slower pace which allows out bodies to slowly absorb the sugar molecules and keep our blood sugar at a more steady level.  Slower absorption means there will be less of an insulin spike and the body will stay full longer since oatmeal will remain in the belly longer.

Steel-cut oatmeal is fantastic for weight loss.  It offers several benefits to those who are trying to take off a few pounds.   Not only is it full of fiber which accelerates weight loss by promoting satiety.  The satiety index is a measure of how filling a food is as compared to white bread.  White bread is 100%, and oatmeal is 209%[3]. The higher the number, the more filling food is.  Just for a point of reference, doughnuts are 68% and clearly evil when it comes to trying to lose weight.

Now, just to clarify, I am not recommending instant oatmeal or the little pouches that are flavored and sweetened.  These are high in sugar and low in fiber.  I am recommending steel-cut oats or any other form that has at least 4-5 grams of fiber per serving and no added sugar.  

Research on Oatmeal: 

  1. Healthy Homemade Oatmeal with Berries

    Healthy Homemade Oatmeal with Berries

    Oatmeal will reduce your waistline.  One study from China looked at 81 subjects during a trial of 6 weeks of oatmeal consumption and found that the oatmeal group had a significantly decreased waist circumference when compared to those who did not[4]

  2. Oatmeal keeps you full.  You will not need research to back this one up.  Try it yourself and see how it sticks with you all the way to lunchtime.  If you are not sure, remember the glycemic index data from above.  It has double the satiety of white bread[5].
  3. Oatmeal will reduce your insulin resistance.  One study looked at patient admitted for type 2 Diabetes that was poorly controlled.  The study from Pina concluded that adding oatmeal to their diets reduced their insulin needs by 40%.  Other studies have confirmed this result with oat fiber added to the diet[6].  

The bottom line: A serving of oatmeal has fewer calories than a couple of slices of bread and often has more fiber than most white bread. One-half cup of dry oatmeal contains 150 calories. When prepared with a cup of water, it makes a voluminous meal.  The satiety level deliver by oatmeal is nearly unmatched, and the benefits to you health from the beta-glucans and avenanthramides make it a can’t miss addition to any breakfast.  

[1]Beck et al., “Increases in Peptide Y-Y Levels Following Oat β-Glucan Ingestion Are Dose-Dependent in Overweight Adults.”
[2]“Beta Glucan: The Heart-Healthy Fiber.”
[3]“Satiety Index.”
[4]Zhang et al., “Randomized Controlled Trial of Oatmeal Consumption versus Noodle Consumption on Blood Lipids of Urban Chinese Adults with Hypercholesterolemia.”
[5]“Satiety Index.”
[6]Lammert et al., “Clinical Benefit of a Short Term Dietary Oatmeal Intervention in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Severe Insulin Resistance: A Pilot Study.”
Beck, Eleanor J., Linda C. Tapsell, Marijka J. Batterham, Susan M. Tosh, and Xu-Feng Huang. “Increases in Peptide Y-Y Levels Following Oat β-Glucan Ingestion Are Dose-Dependent in Overweight Adults.” Nutrition Research. Elsevier BV, October 2009. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2009.09.012
Lammert, A., J. Kratzsch, J. Selhorst, P. Humpert, A. Bierhaus, R. Birck, K. Kusterer, and H.-P. Hammes. “Clinical Benefit of a Short Term Dietary Oatmeal Intervention in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes and Severe Insulin Resistance: A Pilot Study.” Experimental and Clinical Endocrinology & Diabetes. Thieme Publishing Group, February 2008. doi: 10.1055/s-2007-984456
Zhang, Jian, Lixiang Li, Pengkun Song, Chunrong Wang, Qingqing Man, Liping Meng, Jenny Cai, and Anne Kurilich. “Randomized Controlled Trial of Oatmeal Consumption versus Noodle Consumption on Blood Lipids of Urban Chinese Adults with Hypercholesterolemia.” Nutrition Journal. Springer Nature, August 6, 2012. doi: 10.1186/1475-2891-11-54
“Beta Glucan: The Heart-Healthy Fiber.” Healthline. Accessed February 20, 2017. http://www.healthline.com/health/beta-glucan-heart-healthy#Overview1.
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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