Sodium stearoyl-2 lactylate (SSL) lipid surfactant molecules specifically bind partially hydrolysed oat proteins in aqueous medium and significantly enhance the dispersion stability of oat cereal preparations. The proposed complexation is composition dependent and a greater understanding of the role of both oat proteins and lipid surfactant in the effect was gained with data from high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC-UV), viscometry and differential scanning micro calorimetry. The effect of the lipid surfactant on the degree of association is primarily governed by the conformational activity of oat protein molecules related to the extent of protein hydrolysed state, as well as protein unfolded and subsequent aggregated structures. SSL does not dissociate oat proteins into subunits or destroy important hydrophobic contacts already stabilising the protein molecules. Although the exact mode of association is unknown, the present study demonstrates that such interactions occur in a specific manner and suggest selectivity of oat proteins for individual fatty acids. The effect of various amounts of bile acids on SSL-oat protein interaction was also investigated, as a first attempt to investigate the role of lipid surfactant molecules in the known cholesterol-lowering action of oat cereal ingredients and to elucidate favourable conditions by which oat cereal can elicit hypocholesterolemic effects. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.