You've heard it before: oatmeal reduces cholesterol. Oatmeal producers have obtained permission from the FDA to use a cholesterol-reducing claim. The American Heart Association provides a (paid) endorsement of Quaker Oats.
I've lost count of the times I've asked someone whether they ate a healthy breakfast and the answer was "Sure. I had oatmeal."
Is this true? Is oatmeal heart healthy because it reduces LDL cholesterol?
I don't think so. Try this: Have a serving of slow-cooked (e.g., steel-cut, Irish, etc.) oatmeal. Most people will consume oatmeal with skim or 1% milk and some dried or fresh fruit. Wait an hour, then check your blood sugar.
If you are not diabetic and have a fasting blood sugar in the "normal" range (<100 mg/dl), you will typically have a 1-hour blood glucose of 150-180 mg/dl--very high. If you have mildly increased fasting blood sugars between 100 and 126 mg/dl, postprandial (after-eating) blood sugars will easily exceed 180 mg/dl. If you have diabetes, hold onto your hat because, even if you take medications, blood sugar one hour after oatmeal will usually be between 200 and 300 mg/dl.
This is because oatmeal is converted rapidly to sugar, and a lot of it. Even if you were to repeat the experiment with no dried or fresh fruit, you will still witness high blood sugars in these ranges. Do like some people and pile on the raisins, dried cranberries, or brown sugar, and you will see blood sugars go even higher.
Blood sugars this high, experienced repetitively, will damage the delicate insulin-producing beta cells of your pancreas (glucose toxicity). It also glycates proteins of the eyes and vascular walls. The blood glucose effects of oatmeal really don't differ much from a large Snickers bar or bowl of jelly beans.
If you are like most people, you too will show high blood sugars after oatmeal. It's easy to find out . . . check your postprandial blood sugar.
In past, I recommended oat products, specifically oat bran, to reduce LDL, especially small LDL. I've changed my mind: I now no longer recommend any oat product due to its blood sugar-increasing effects.
Better choices: eggs, ground flaxseed as a hot cereal, cheese (the one dairy product that does not excessively trigger insulin), raw nuts, salads, leftovers from last evening's dinner.