Superfoods – Barley

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.

Coffee and your health

A groundbreaking new study has revealed that people who drink anywhere between three to five cups every day are less likely to die young from a variety of serious illnesses than those who do not.

Coffee drinkers were exposed to a lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, type 2 diabetes, and even suicide.

The reasons, though not all clear, appeared to be connected to coffee’s ability to reduce insulin resistance and to its having anti-inflammatory properties.

Study lead author Ming Ding of Harvard School of Public Health in the US, was excited by the findings, though stressed more research was needed.

“Bioactive compounds in coffee reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation,” he said.

“That could explain some of our findings. However, more studies are needed to investigate the biological mechanisms producing these effects.”

Health charities and research bodies in the UK gave a cautious welcome to the new findings, pointing out lifestyle choices were also crucial to good health.

The team of researchers, whose findings were published online in the journal Circulation, analysed health figures gathered from more than 208,000 participants in three large ongoing US health studies spanning 30 years.v

During the study period, 19,524 women and 12,432 men died from a range of causes.

Coffee consumption was not associated with cancer deaths. The analyses took into consideration potential confounding factors such as smoking, body mass index (BMI), physical activity, alcohol consumption, and other dietary factors.

The study data revealed a link between moderate coffee consumption and a reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, and suicide.

Fellow study senior author Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology, said: “This study provides further evidence that moderate consumption of coffee may confer health benefits in terms of reducing premature death due to several diseases.


“These data support the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Report that concluded that moderate coffee consumption can be incorporated into a healthy dietary pattern.’”

Dr Rob van Dam, also from the Harvard school, explained: “It’s an important message because people have seen coffee drinking as an unhealthy habit, along the lines of smoking and excessive drinking, and they may make a lot of effort to reduce their coffee consumption or quit drinking it altogether, even if they really enjoy it.

“Our findings suggest that if you want to improve your health, it’s better to focus on other lifestyle factors, such as increasing your physical activity, quitting smoking, or eating more fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.”

Claire Bale, Head of Research Communications at Parkinson’s UK, said: “This study adds to existing research on caffeine and its potential associated protective qualities in reducing the risk of Parkinson’s.

“Particularly interesting is that the study shows regardless of whether the coffee is de-caffeinated or caffeinated, drinking a moderate amount may slightly reduce the risk of a person developing Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases.”

She added: “Further investigation is needed to find out if coffee could genuinely help us fight Parkinson’s – taking us a step closer to helping improve the lives of people with the condition.

“The study does not recommend drinking coffee or other caffeinated products to prevent Parkinson’s. It’s important to remember that there are many health issues associated with excess caffeine intake.”

Diabetes campaigners also welcomed the research. Pav Kalsi, Senior Clinical Advisor at Diabetes UK, said: “When it comes to reducing risk of Type 2 diabetes, evidence clearly shows that the most important thing people can do is to maintain a healthy weight through eating a healthy balanced diet, along with taking regular physical activity.

“For people who are already living with Type 2 diabetes this approach is also key to managing their condition well.”

Emily Reeve, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation said: “Previous research suggests that drinking up to five cups of coffee a day is not harmful to your cardiovascular health, and this study supports that.”

She added: “But more research is needed to fully understand how coffee affects our body and what it is in coffee that may affect a person’s risk of heart attack or stroke.”