Barley lowers not one but two types of 'bad cholesterol', review suggests

June 8, 2016
Space-filling model of the Cholesterol molecule. Credit: RedAndr/Wikipedia

Eating barley or foods containing barley significantly reduced levels of two types of "bad cholesterol" associated with cardiovascular risk, a St. Michael's Hospital research paper has found.

Barley reduced both low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and non-high-density lipoprotein, or non-HDL, by seven per cent.

The review also indicated that had similar cholesterol-lowering effects as oats, which is often the go-to grain for health benefits.

The research review, published today in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 14 studies on clinical trials conducted in seven countries, including Canada.

It is the first study to look at the effects of barley and barley products on both LDL and non-HDL cholesterol in addition to apolipoprotein B, or apoB, a lipoprotein that carries through the blood. Measuring non-HDL and apoB provides a more accurate assessment for cardiovascular risk, as they account for the total 'bad cholesterol' found in the blood.

"The findings are most important for populations at high risk for , such as Type 2 diabetics, who have normal levels of LDL cholesterol, but elevated levels of non-HDL or apo B," said Dr. Vladimir Vuksan, research scientist and associate director of the Risk Factor Modification Centre of St. Michael's. "Barley has a lowering effect on the total bad cholesterol in these high-risk individuals, but can also benefit people without ."

High cholesterol and diabetes are major risk factors for cardiovascular disease and stroke, historically treated with medications. However, Dr. Vuksan's research and work focuses on how dietary and lifestyle changes can reduce these risk factors.

"Barley's positive effect on lowering cholesterol is well-documented and has been included in the Canadian strategy for reducing ," said Dr. Vuksan. "Health Canada, the FDA and several health authorities worldwide have already approved health claims that barley lowers LDL cholesterol, but this is the first review showing the effects on other harmful lipids."

Despite its benefits Dr. Vuksan said barley is not as well-established as some other health-recommended foods—such as oats. Barley consumption by humans has fallen by 35 per cent in the last 10 years. Canada is one of the top five world producers of barley—almost 10 megatonnes per year—but human consumption accounts for only two per cent of the crop yield, with livestock making up the other 98 per cent. "After looking at the evidence, we can also say that barley is comparably effective as oats in reducing overall risk of cardiovascular disease" said Dr. Vuksan.

Barley is higher in fibre, has twice the protein and almost half the calories of oats, which are important considerations for those with weight or dietary concerns.

Dr. Vuksan said barley can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. He recommends trying to incorporate barley into existing recipes, using it as a substitute for rice or even on its own—just like oatmeal.

Explore further: New recipes show how oats and barley can make our favourite meals healthier

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2 comments

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humy
5 / 5 (2) Jun 08, 2016
There isn't such thing as "bad cholesterol" and medical science has shown absolutely no CAUSAL link, and the word "CAUSAL' here is not to be confused with a 'correlation' or 'association' as so often it is elsewhere in science, with cardiovascular risk. This nonsense of cholesterol being 'bad' for you is completely unsupported by the scientific evidence and always was so and yet, as here, the scientists continually ignore this critical fact resulting in pointless research into what increases or decreases cholesterol and giving people the completely WRONG health messages resulting in people harming their health.

To elaborate by example of how CAUSAL link can be confused in science with a correlation;
Night is always followed by day so day is correlated with night; so night CAUSES day? -obviously not.
EnricM
not rated yet Jun 09, 2016
There isn't such thing as "bad cholesterol" and medical science has shown absolutely no CAUSAL link, a.

Exactly what I was thinking about.

From my limited understanding the body makes whatever cholesterol it needs itself if there isn't enough of either class in the food...

OK, barley may reduce one of the types of cholesterol, but what it means we don't know.

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