Eating bread made up of barley kernals could reduce blood sugar levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, a Swedish study reports.
According to researchers at Lund University, barley contains a special mix of dietary fibres which can reduce people’s appetite and the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The study team, led by Professor Anne Nilsso, monitored 20 healthy, middle-aged participants Some ate barley kernel bread for three days – 85 per cent of which was made out of barley grains – while a control group ate white bread.
The participants were asked to eat the bread at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Roughly 11-14 hours after their final meal each day, the participants were evaluated for risk factors of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Those who ate the barley kernel bread had improved metabolisms for up to 14 hours; experiencing decreased blood glucose levels and insulin levels. They also had increased insulin sensitivity and reduced appetite.
Nilsson explained: “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.”
The researchers believe the positive health effects from barley kernel are experienced when they reach the gut. This then increases good bacteria, such as Prevotella copri, which has a direct regulatory effect on blood sugar levels; and encourages the release of certain hormones.
“It is surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibres can – in a short period of time – generate such remarkable health benefits,” added Nilsson.
Nilsson’s team hope these findings can impact research into the rising rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes in the UK, and worldwide. They hope that food stores will start to sell more products containing barley kernels, and that people will use barley in meals as an alternative to rice and potatoes.
A limitation of this study was its small size, and further research on a larger scale would be needed to validate these findings. Additionally, the benefits of barley kernel bread were only compared to white bread, which is known for providing very little fibre or nutrition.
The study was published in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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