We have long been told that a regular bowl of porridge is the best start to the day - and now scientists have confirmed that it also has the ingredients for a healthy heart.
orridge contains oat beta-glucan, which can lower cholesterol that is linked to heart attacks and strokes, according to researchers at the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork.
They found oat beta glucan consumed by mice not only cut cholesterol but also helped keep body weight down.
And it also benefited microbiota, which is the bacteria in the gut.
"These results show we need to consider effects on the microbiome when treating cardiovascular disease through either food or medication," said Prof Catherine Stanton, of the Teagasc Food Research Centre.
"The message is to take porridge regularly to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease whilst also protecting your gut microbiota."
The mice were fed a high-fat diet together with either a food supplement or medication over the course of 24 weeks.
The food supplements used in the study were plant sterol ester - the plant equivalent of cholesterol, currently added to some foods - and oat beta-glucan, which is the fibre in porridge.
Researchers also administered the drug Atorvastatin, a prescribed anti-choleseterol statin.
Diet and exercise are known to prevent or slow down the development of atherosclerosis where arteries become clogged with fatty substances. But it has become evident that our gut bacteria also play a role.
Noel Caplice, professor of cardiovascular sciences in UCC, said there was "established epidemiological data supporting the role of specific food constituents including oat beta-glucan and plant sterols in cardiovascular health."
Understanding the balance between food, gut bacteria and health may help in developing food and therapeutic products in the treatment of cardiovascular disease.
Around 10,000 people in Ireland die each year from cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, stroke and other circulatory diseases.