Oats are promoted as an important part of a well-balanced diet. They are known as a heart-healthy food that’s high in fiber and helps lower cholesterol, as explained by WebMD. This hearty breakfast staple contains both soluble and insoluble fiber, B vitamins, vitamin E, and avenanthramides — a unique antioxidant found only in oats. They have also been found to contain something not quite so appealing — toxins related mold.
Researchers found that oats contain a common mycotoxin. Ochratoxin A (OTA) is linked to kidney cancer in animals and has also been found in pork, dried fruits, wine, coffee, and more. Since studies have only been done on animals, the effects of these toxins on human health are not yet known. However, OTA is listed as a potential human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization.
Mycotoxins have come to the forefront lately with the recent Purina dog food lawsuit in which they are blamed for sickening and killing thousands of dogs. The toxins allegedly caused liver damage and internal bleeding. According to Daily Finance, the Association for Truth in Pet Food tested some dog foods and found that Beneful Original had high enough mycotoxin levels to pose a “high risk” to animals.
Mycotoxins have also been implicated as potential links to autism and Balkan endemic nephropathy (BEN) — a disease that affects the kidneys — in humans.
There are no regulations for OTA in the United States, but the European Union does have limits on how much OTA foods can contain. Researchers Dojin Ryu and Hyun Jung Lee wanted to compare U.S. breakfast cereals against this EU measure. In a study published in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemicals, 500 samples of corn, wheat, rice, and oat-based breakfast cereals were tested over a two-year period. Most were found to fall within the EU limits, but 8 percent exceeded them.
What does this tell us? We don’t know yet. We’re all familiar with the good for you today / bad for you tomorrow game in health and wellness news. While researchers aren’t recommending consumers purge their pantries of all things oats, they did conclude that the production, storage, and processing of oats need to be examined more closely to determine if consumer safety is at risk. Considering the copious amounts of breakfast cereal Americans consume, it’s worth knowing each serving may come with a dose of toxins.
[Image by Free Food Photos]