Barley could be the key to losing weight and warding off heart disease and diabetes, experts have revealed.
The grain has been found to rapidly improve people’s health, by reducing blood sugar levels and, in turn, the risk of diabetes.
Scientists at Lund University in Sweden said the secret lies in the special mix of dietary fibers found in barley.
Furthermore, the cereal, they said, helps to reduce a person’s appetite and their risk of cardiovascular disease.
Anne Nilsson, associate professor and one of the researchers who led the study, said: ‘It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibers can, in a short period of time, generate such remarkable health benefits.’
To arrive at their conclusions, researchers examined a group of healthy middle-aged volunteers over a three-day period.
They were asked to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels (up to 85 per cent) for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day.
Around 11 to 14 hours after their final meal of the day, each participant was examined for risk indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The scientists found that the volunteers’ metabolism improved for up to 14 hours.
And, in addition they saw other improvements, including a decrease in blood sugar and insulin levels, increases in insulin sensitivity and improved appetite control.
The effects arise when the special mix of dietary fibers in barley kernels reach the gut.
There, they stimulate the increase of ‘good’ bacteria, and the release of important hormones.
Dr Nilsson said: ‘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.’
Past research conducted with colleagues at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, found that dietary fibers from barley kernel generate an increase of the gut bacteria Prevotella copri.
That bacteria has a direct regulatory effect on blood sugar levels and helps decrease the proportion of a type of gut bacteria that is considered unhealthy, the researchers said.
How effective barley kernel will be on a person is influenced by their existing gut microbiota.
Those people with lower concentraions 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.