Oats are a rich source of β-glucan, a viscous, soluble fibre recognised for its cholesterol-lowering properties, and are associated with reduced risk of CVD. Our objective was to conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised-controlled trials (RCT) investigating the cholesterol-lowering potential of oat β-glucan on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and apoB for the risk reduction of CVD. MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL and Cochrane CENTRAL were searched. We included RCT of ≥3 weeks of follow-up, assessing the effect of diets enriched with oat β-glucan compared with controlled diets on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol or apoB. Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed study quality and risk of bias. Data were pooled using the generic inverse-variance method with random effects models and expressed as mean differences with 95 % CI. Heterogeneity was assessed by the Cochran’s Q statistic and quantified by the I2-statistic. In total, fifty-eight trials (n 3974) were included. A median dose of 3·5 g/d of oat β-glucan significantly lowered LDL-cholesterol (−0·19; 95 % CI −0·23, −0·14 mmol/l, P<0·00001), non-HDL-cholesterol (−0·20; 95 % CI −0·26, −0·15 mmol/l, P<0·00001) and apoB (−0·03; 95 % CI −0·05, −0·02 g/l, P<0·0001) compared with control interventions. There was evidence for considerable unexplained heterogeneity in the analysis of LDL-cholesterol (I2=79 %) and non-HDL-cholesterol (I2=99 %). Pooled analyses showed that oat β-glucan has a lowering effect on LDL-cholesterol, non-HDL-cholesterol and apoB. Inclusion of oat-containing foods may be a strategy for achieving targets in CVD reduction.