Contrary to previous reports, a new study Tuesday concluded eating moderate amounts of oats apparently can reduce artery-clogging cholesterol in the blood.

The study, paid for by Quaker Oats Co. of Chicago, involved 148 adults with high cholesterol levels. It found those who ate relatively modest amounts of oat bran or oatmeal every day for six weeks had a 10 percent to 15 percent drop in cholesterol in their blood."This study demonstrates that an acceptable form of water-soluble fiber . . . in oat cereals is effective in lowering serum cholesterol levels," the researchers wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The subjects ate about 2 ounces of oat bran, which is the equivalent of about a medium-size bowl of oat bran or a small bowl and two muffins, or 3 ounces of oatmeal, which is equivalent to about a large bowl of oat meal or a medium bowl and two muffins.

"People were concerned it may take an enormous amount to have an effect. That's not what we found," said Dr. Michael Davidson of the Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center in Chicago, who led the study.

But he added that "it does require a commitment" to eat oats regularly because the cholesterol levels of the subjects in the study rose after they stopped consuming the special diet.

Doubt had been cast on the ability of oats to lower cholesterol when a study indicated lower cholesterol levels seen in earlier studies of oats was due to a reduction in fat intake as oat intake increased. But the subjects in the new study had no change in fat intake, Davidson said.

Although Quaker Oats financed the latest work, Davidson said the company was not involved in designing the study or analyzing the results.