Consuming bread made with fiber from barley may lower the risk of diabetes by reducing blood sugar levels, according to a new study from Lund University. The findings also suggest a mixture of dietary fibers found in barley also may help reduce appetite and the risk for cardiovascular disease.
The study was conducted with healthy middle-aged participants who were asked to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels at breakfast, lunch and dinner for three days. Approximately 11 to 14 hours after their final meal of the day participants were examined for risk indicators of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 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 fibers 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," said Anne Nilsson, associate professor at the Food for Health Science Centre and one of the researchers behind the study.
In a previous related study conducted with a team from the University of Gothenburg researchers also found that dietary fibers 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.
The results are timely, as rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes have significantly increased in the past few years. Researchers hope that more knowledge about the impact of specific dietary fibers on people’s health will hopefully result in stores keeping more food products with healthy properties such as barley kernels in stores, researchers hope. The ambition is also to get more people to use barley in meals for example in salads, soups, stews, or as an alternative to rice or potatoes.
In 2012, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) panel confirmed a cause-and-effect relationship between barley beta-glucans and lower/reduced blood cholesterol. The opinion paves the way for European food and beverage manufacturers to use a stronger health claim on products that contain Barliv barley betafiber (beta-glucan).
For more information how dietary compounds impact insulin resistance and glucose regulation, check out the article “Next-Gen Blood Sugar Management."