In May 2012, an oats workshop was held in New York to convene a group of international experts to discuss the implications and applications of oats relative to human health. These diverse experts represented disciplines including, but not limited to, epidemiology, food regulation, nutrition and food science, grain breeding and plant genetics, food processing, medicine and public-health policy. This ensuing series addresses three important aspects pertinent to oats: a brief overview of the dynamics of oats; the spectrum of established and emerging research in agriculture and health; and the options and opportunities for future applications of oats that extend beyond dietary fibre. Oats have many unique chemical properties, potential health benefits, agricultural challenges and nutrition-policy opportunities – but global production of oats appears to be falling. This is occurring despite contemporary research in the development of drought and infestation resistance and climate-adaptive cultivars and assessments of oats’ unique components (such as dietary fibre, lipids, β-glucan and avenanthramides) that may contribute to health benefits. This suggests that oats represent a promising grain in the whole-grains landscape. New insights have been created into benefits beyond cardiovascular health. Modern milling and processing technologies have been developed to retain the nutritive value and functional properties of oats and to assure a consistent foundation for global health policies.