Barley is a cereal grain used as a staple food in many countries. It is commonly used as an ingredient in baked products and soup in Europe and the United States. Barley malt is used to make beer and as a natural sweetener called malt sugar or barley jelly sugar. Barley has high fiber content.
Recent data suggest that barley may be promising in reducing total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or "bad") cholesterol in patients with mildly elevated cholesterol and in reducing the risk of heart disease. Although not well studied in humans, barley may protect against cancer. Current evidence suggests that beta-glucan from barley may not improve appetite control.
Germinated barley foodstuff (GBF) may play a role in the management of ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel disease, and mild constipation. High-fiber barley may be useful in the diets of patients with diabetes.
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Note: Most scientific studies have used foods containing barley rather than barley supplements.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Evidence suggests that barley may help lower mildly elevated cholesterol, especially when used with other cholesterol-lowering agents. Larger trials are needed to confirm these results.
Cardiovascular disease risk
Supplementation with different types of barley beta-glucans had small effects on cardiovascular disease markers in humans. Further research is necessary in this area.
Barley has been used traditionally as a treatment for constipation, due to its high fiber content. However, there is limited scientific evidence in this area. Further research is necessary in order to establish safety and dosing recommendations.
High blood sugar/glucose intolerance
Early evidence suggests that barley meal may improve glucose tolerance. Better research is necessary before a firm conclusion can be drawn.
Germinated barley foodstuff (GBF), which comes from maturing barley, may be helpful in patients with ulcerative colitis. Scientific evidence in this area is limited, and further research is needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Increasing intake of whole-grain foods containing high amounts of soluble or insoluble fiber may help to control weight. Barley has high fiber content, but studies regarding whether barley promotes weight loss are limited.
There is limited evidence suggesting that consumption of beta-glucan from barley does not improve appetite control. Further research in this area is necessary.