Oatmeal supplemented by an intake of vitamin E could help prevent some of the damage to arteries caused by fatty foods and thus lower heart disease risk, says research funded by Quaker Oats.

The study found that a bowl of oatmeal or 800 international units (IUs) of vitamin E helped maintain blood flow in the arteries of individuals who had just consumed high levels of fat.

Dr. David Katz, lead author of the studies report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine said that fat can cause arteries to constrict, thereby reducing blood flow and raising the risk of heart disease. Eating oats however can help protect blood vessels from the adverse effects of fat ingestion. He added that follow-up studies should confirm the effects of oats in people at risk of heart disease.

The study took 50 non-smoking adults with no signs of heart disease and instructed them to drink a milkshake made of ice cream, cream of coconut and eggs, on three separate occasions, while at other times the participants ate a bowl of oatmeal, wheat cereal or a vitamin E capsule with the milkshake.

Ultrasound testing revealed that blood flow declined by more than 13% when adults consumed wheat cereal with the milkshake; indicating that arteries were constricted. However, there was no decline when they ate oatmeal or took a vitamin E supplement, meaning the arteries were kept open.