Barley’s Human Health Impact

By Jessie Topp

One of the most widely grown cereal grains in the world, barley, has been used as a food and beverage source since ancient times. However, today, its use as a food product is limited. In fact, only two percent of all barley cultivated worldwide is consumed or processed into food products. That is compared to 65 percent used for animal feed and 33 percent for malt production.

Unlike wheat and rice, which are both more widely utilized as a food source, barley is not commonly recognized as a food crop. Research in recent years has resulted in growing interest in the use of barley in food products. This has been spurred, in part, by growing evidence that routine barley consumption has been linked to reduced risk of non-communicable diseases (NCD), including hypertension, chronic heart disease, and hyperglycemia. Please refer to our recent blog posts to learn how barley may be used to control hyperglycemia and target type 2 diabetes.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of human mortality worldwide. Diets rich in antioxidants, such as phenolic compounds can potentially aid in protecting against the development of risk factors for CVD. Because barley is a good source of phenolic compounds, consuming barley-based foods may reduce reliance on pharmaceutical agents for CVD treatment. Similarly, the use of barley-based foods could be used complementarily to pharmaceutical agents for CVD treatment.

Research continues to provide support for barley’s potential to positively influence human health. This growing interest in barley’s use as a food ingredient with specific health benefits should spark excitement for barley growers and individuals dealing with NCDs, alike.