Healthier Oats for a Healthy Diet

Research based oat breeding programme creates benefits for health and the economy

Research carried out at the Institute for Biological Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) has led to the development of new and improved varieties of oats which can reduce heart disease and have produced benefits for the UK economy. The research is led by Professor Athole Marshall, Head of the Oat Breeding Programme at IBERS.

Oats contain a specific type of fibre known as beta glucan which helps prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels. Studies also show that beta glucan can help those suffering with diabetes as they experience lower rises in blood sugar levels.

Varieties developed by the IBERS oat breeding programme seek to contain higher levels of beta glucan than other oat varieties and therefore offer enhanced health benefits to society as 65% of all oats used in the UK have been developed at IBERS.

The research has also led to the development of more nutritious animal feed, leading to better productivity for farmers.

"Oats are used extensively for human and animal consumption and the market is growing at around 5% per year. It is estimated that IBERS'; contribution to the UK oats market generated more than £19,000,000 GVA for the UK economy in 2012/13 and supported more than 800 jobs"

Biggar Economics, ‘Economic Impact of IBERS’, Report to Aberystwyth University, April 2014


Research aims

  • To develop new varieties of oats with higher beta glucan content
  • Develop new varieties that will respond well to environmental and climate change, use less fertiliser, be more productive and more attractive to manufacturers, farmers and consumers
  • To create new varieties that also have a high yield in order to maintain farmers’ profit levels
  • To create new varieties of winter and spring oats


Useful Links

Athole Marshall - Staff Profile

QUOATS Project



Professor Athole Marshall
Institute of Biological, Rural and Environmental Sciences
Aberystwyth University | +44 (0)1970 62 2460