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Barley lowers ‘bad cholesterol’ and CV risk, research suggests


June 16, 2016
By Canadian Pizza

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Toronto – 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, according to a St. Michael’s Hospital news release.

Barley was found to have similar cholesterol-lowering effects as oats, which is often the go-to grain for health benefits, the release said.

The research review, published June 18 in The European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, included 14 studies on clinical trials conducted in seven countries, Canada among them.

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“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 apo B,” said Vladimir Vuksan, lead 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.”

“Barley’s positive effect on lowering cholesterol is well-documented and has been included in the Canadian strategy for reducing cardiovascular risk,” Vuksan said. “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 Vuksan said barley is not as well established as some other health-recommended foods, such as oats. Canada is one of the top five world producers of barley, but human consumption accounts for only two per cent of the crop yield.

“After looking at the evidence, we can also say that barley is comparably effective as oats in reducing overall risk of cardiovascular disease” he said, adding barley is higher in fibre, has twice the protein and almost half the calories of oats.

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.