A fat substitute made its public debut in an oatmeal raisin cookie last month. The substitute, a coarse beige-yellow flourlike substance called Nu-Trim, contains high percentages of ß glucans--the soluble fibers that lower cholesterol through the same mechanisms as oat bran.

While those mechanisms are not well understood, they are effective, remarked the product's developer, George E. Inglett , of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agricultural Research Service in Peoria, Ill. Earlier studies documenting the success of oat brain in reducing cholesterol led him and his team to further capitalize on those mechanisms. They developed a manufacturing process that basically produces a more concentrated form of oat bran, by exposing the grains to high heat and pressure. "It's no different than cooking oatmeal, then putting it through a sieve," Inglett said of the process.

Wallace H. Yokoyama, an Albany, Calif., USDA researcher, hypothesized that the heat and pressure...

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