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Study finds barley can reduce sugar levels and risk of diabetes

10 February 2016  •  Author(s): Victoria White

A recent study from Lund University shows that barley can rapidly improve people’s health by reducing blood sugar levels and risk for diabetes.

barley

The secret lies in the special mixture of dietary fibres found in the grain.

“It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibres can – in a short period of time – generate such remarkable health benefits”, says Anne Nilsson, Associate Professor at the Food for Health Science Centre and one of the researchers behind the study.

The study was conducted with healthy middle-aged participants who were asked to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels (up to 85%) three times a day for three days. Approximately 11-14 hours after their final meal of the day participants were examined for risk indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found that the participants’ metabolism improved for up to 14 hours, with additional benefits such as decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels, increases in insulin sensitivity and improved appetite control. The effects arise when the special mixture of dietary fibres in barley kernel reaches the gut, stimulating the increase of good bacteria and the release of important hormones.

“After eating the bread made out of barley kernel, we saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite, and an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic low-grade inflammation, among the participants. In time this could help prevent the occurrence of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes”, says Anne Nilsson.

Fibres from barley generate an increase in Prevotella copri

In a previous related study conducted with a team from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden researchers also found that dietary fibres from barley kernel generate an increase of the gut bacteria Prevotella copri, which have a direct regulatory effect on blood sugar levels and help decrease the proportion of a type of gut bacteria that is considered unhealthy.

The effects from barley kernel are influenced by the composition of the individual’s gut microbiota, meaning people with low concentrations of the Prevotella copri bacteria experienced less effect from their intake of barley products. Eating more barley could, however, help stimulate growth of the bacteria.

And the researchers’ advice for how to maintain a healthy blood sugar level? Choose bread with as much whole grains as possible

  • Avoid white flour
  • Add barley kernel grains in soups and stews
  • Replace white rice with cooked barley
  • Eat beans and chickpeas

The bread used in the study was 85% made out of barley grains, which had been boiled and mixed with wheat flour.

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