Oats and bowel disease: a systematic literature review

Frank Thies, Lindsey F. Masson, Paolo Boffetta, Penny Kris-Etherton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Whole-grain foods such as oats may protect against colorectal cancer and have benefits on inflammatory bowel disease and coeliac disease. The present study aimed to systematically review the literature describing intervention studies that investigated the effects of oats or oat bran on risk factors for bowel disease. A literature search was conducted using Embase, Medline and the Cochrane library, which identified 654 potential articles. Thirty-eight articles describing twenty-nine studies met the inclusion criteria. Two studies carried out in participants with a history of colorectal adenomas found no effects of increased oat-bran intake on indirect risk makers for colorectal cancer. One of two interventions with oat bran in patients with ulcerative colitis showed small improvements in the patients' conditions. Most of the eleven studies carried out in adults with coeliac disease showed no negative effects of uncontaminated oat consumption. The fourteen studies carried out in volunteers with no history of bowel disease suggest that oats or oat bran can significantly increase stool weight and decrease constipation, but there is a lack of evidence to support a specific effect of oats on bowel function compared with other cereals. A long-term dietary intake of oats or oat bran could benefit inflammatory bowel disorders, but this remains to be proven. A protective effect on colorectal adenoma and cancer incidence has not yet been convincingly shown. The majority of patients with coeliac disease could consume up to 100 g/d of uncontaminated oats, which would increase the acceptability of, and adherence to, a gluten-free diet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S31-43
Number of pages13
JournalBritish Journal of Nutrition
Issue numberS2
Early online date30 Sept 2014
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014

Bibliographical note

The authors thank M. Mowett for sourcing the majority of the articles. F. T. reviewed articles for inclusion, and drafted the paper. L. F. M. carried out the literature search, extracted the data and contributed to writing the paper; P. B. and P. K.-E. contributed to writing the paper.
F. T., P. K.-E. and P. B. received an honorarium from Quaker Oats Company (a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc.) for attending the workshop in May 2012 to discuss the content of the supplement, and the University of Aberdeen received an unrestricted grant from Quaker Oats Company. L. F. M. has no conflict of interest to report.
This paper was published as part of a supplement to British Journal of Nutrition, publication of which was supported by an unrestricted educational grant from Quaker Oats Co. (a subsidiary of PepsiCo Inc.). The papers included in this supplement were invited by the Guest Editor and have undergone the standard journal formal review process. They may be cited.
The Guest Editor to this supplement is Roger Clemens. The Guest Editor declares no conflict of interest.


  • oats
  • bowel disease
  • inflammatory bowel disease
  • coeliac disease
  • bowel cancer


Dive into the research topics of 'Oats and bowel disease: a systematic literature review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this