Barley is a grain commonly found in bread, beverages, and various cuisines of every culture. It is one of the most widely consumed grains in the entire world. Barley is high in fibre, has twice the protein and almost half the calories of oats as well as an important consideration for people with weight or dietary concerns. It is used for lowering blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and for promoting weight loss. It is also used for digestive complaints including diarrhea, stomach pain, and inflammatory bowel conditions. According to a new study conducted by St Michael's Hospital in Canada consuming barley as food or in food recipes can significantly reduce the levels of "bad cholesterol" that are associated with heart disease risk, suggesting that barley has similar cholesterol-lowering effects as oats. The review, published in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 14 studies on clinical trials conducted in seven countries, including Canada.
The results showed that barley reduced by seven per cent both low-density lipoprotein, or LDL and non-high-density lipoprotein, or non-HDL. "The findings are most important for populations at high risk for cardiovascular disease, such as Type 2 diabetics, who have normal levels of LDL cholesterol but elevated levels of non-HDL or apolipoprotein B," said Scientist Vladimir Vuksan.
Barley has a lowering effect on the total bad cholesterol in high-risk individuals, but can also benefit people without high cholesterol. High cholesterol and diabetes are the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Measuring non-HDL and or apoB — a lipoprotein that carries bad cholesterol through the blood, provides a more accurate assessment for heart disease risk, as they account for the total 'bad cholesterol' found in the blood.
Despite its benefits, barley is not as well established as some other health-recommended foods — such as oats, the researchers rued, adding that barley consumption by humans has fallen by 35 per cent in the last 10 years. According to Bangalore based Nutritionist Anju Sood, "Fibre increases the ability of your heart to do away with the bad cholesterol. Barley Water is a good source of fibre hence it is essential for patients who suffer from cholesterol problems. Moreover it is good for individuals who have a low water retention problem and is recommended to them." Inputs from ians