Rhubarb, prized for use in pies, tarts, and sauces is good for your heart. According to a study from the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, a dietary fiber derived from rhubarb stalks can help reduce cholesterol levels in people with abnormally high blood fats.
Their study of ten men with abnormally high blood fats found that 27 grams (nearly one ounce) of powdered rhubarb fiber consumed along with a beverage each day for four weeks could lower total cholesterol by 8% and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol by an average of 9%. In two subjects, LDL cholesterol dropped as much as 20%.
According to the investigators, the amount of reduction was higher than fiber from sources such as barley bran flour and rice bran, and similar to other fibers such as guar gum and psyllium.
The researchers indicate they are confident that it was the fiber itself and not any dietary changes that accounted for the findings. At the beginning of the study, participants were asked not to change their diet, to keep their level of activity constant, and to avoid alcohol. Moreover, one month after stopping the rhubarb fiber, the men’s cholesterol levels returned to what they had been before the study began.
Apart from being rich in fiber, rhubarb is 95% water and contains a fair source of potassium, contributes minor amounts of vitamins, and is low in sodium. Rhubarb’s crisp sour stalks are rich in vitamin C and calcium, although the calcium is combined with oxalic acid and so is not easily absorbed by the body.
(From theJournal of the American College of Nutrition [1997; 16(6)]: 600-604)
Revision date: June 14, 2011
Last revised: by Sebastian Scheller, MD, ScD