Research carried out by Irish-based scientists has shown that porridge is good for the heart and the gut.

The scientists, based at the APC Microbiome Institute in Cork, discovered that beta glucan - the fibre found in porridge - can help reduce cholesterol and body weight.

They also found that it can positively alter the make-up of the microbes and bugs living in our intestines, known as microbiota, and how they work.

Specifically the oat beta glucan promoted the growth of beneficial intestinal microorganisms.

It also raised the levels of a fatty acid which in rodent studies has proven to prevent diet induced obesity, as well as bacteria that scientists think can help control weight-gain.

An additional discovery by the research, published in the journal Microbiome, was that plant stanol esters (the plant equivalent of cholesterol which is good for lowering bad cholesrol) are the best for keeping cholesterol low, but the worst when it comes to weight increase and the health of microbiota in mice.

The study involved feeding mice susceptible to cholesterol build up a high fat diet with a food supplement or medication over almost six months.

The food supplements were either plant stanol ester and oat beta glucan, while the medication was the statin Atorvastatin.

"These results show we need to consider effects on the microbiome when treating cardiovascular disease through either food or medication" said Prof Catherine Stanton, leader of the research at the APC Microbiome Institute and Teagasc Food Research Centre, Moorepark, Co Cork.

"The message is to take porridge regularly to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease whilst also protecting your gut microbiota."