DALLAS – A type of phenolic compound found only in oats may play a role in protecting the heart, according to a scientific session at the 247th annual conference of the American Chemical Society taking place in Dallas through March 20.

The compound, avenanthramide (AVE), may possess antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-itch and anti-cancer properties, according to speakers at the session. The soluble fiber beta-glucan found in oats already is recognized for its ability to lower total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (L.D.L.C).

“While the data to support the importance of oat beta-glucan remains, these studies reveal that the heart health benefit of eating oats may go beyond fiber,” said Shengmin Sang, Ph.D., of the Center for Excellence in Post-Harvest Technologies at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, N.C. “As the scientific investigators dig deeper, we have discovered that the bioactive compounds found in oats – AVEs – may provide additional cardio-protective benefits.”

In all, 11 scientists spoke at the oats session.

Research shows AVEs partly may be responsible for a positive association between oats and heart health. Data demonstrate the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of AVEs likely contribute to the atheroprotection of oats, said Oliver Chen, Ph.D., of the Jean Mayer U.S.D.A. Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston.

The AVEs in oats also appear to repress the process associated with the development of atherosclerosis, said Mohsen Meydani, Ph.D., from the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the Jean Mayer U.S.D.A. Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging.

Other scientists at the session came from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada; PepsiCo, Inc. R.&D.; the Institute of Food, Nutrition and Health in Zurich, Switzerland; the University of Minnesota; and the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La.