A 2015 study from Lund University in Sweden shows that barley can rapidly improve health by reducing blood sugar levels and lowering the risk for diabetes. The secret lies in the special mixture of dietary fibers found in barley, which can also curb appetite and reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease, say researchers.
“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,” said Anne Nilsson, PhD, associate professor at Lund’s Food for Health Science Centre and one of the principal researchers.
The study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition (2015; 114 ,
899–907) was conducted with healthy middle-aged participants who were asked
to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels for 3 days—at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Approximately 11–14 hours after their final meal of the day, participants were examined for risk indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Researchers found that 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 increased when the special mixture of dietary fibers in barley kernel reached the gut, stimulating an increase in “good” bacteria and the release of important hormones.
“After [study subjects ate] 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,” Nilsson said.
The bread used in the study was made from 85% barley kernels, which had been boiled and mixed with wheat flour. If you want to reduce the amount of barley, you can replace some of it with more wheat or other whole grains.