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The Medical Breakdown On Barley

Learn fascinating in-depth educational information about one of Roasted Roots Teas' key ingredients directly from Naturopathic Doctor Dr. Amun

Barley is the 4th most harvested crop in the world for cereal and malt. Regular consumption

of this grain has been shown to affect human health in several ways as it exerts its effects on many enzymes and systems in the body. Barley grains have a low glycemic index and studies have found that regular consumption of whole barely can prevent chronic disease, such as diabetes, colorectal cancer, hyperlipidemia, high blood pressure, gallstones, etc. Barley has an extensive nutrient profile as it is packed with vitamin C, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, vitamin A, some B vitamins, vitamin E, potassium, flavonoids, lignans, tocols, phytosterols, and folate, zinc, etc. Studies have even found that it contains 300 enzymes that the body can utilize, some for free radical damage and oxidative stress. Barely is rich in Phenolic acids known as benzoic acid and cinnamic acid and Phenolic acids have been linked to chronic disease prevention. The Phenolic acids function as defenders against pathogens, and parasites for the plant, and some of these defense mechanisms transfer to the human body. The Lignan content in barley has been suggested to exert antioxidant, antiviral, anti-estrogen, antiviral, and antibacterial effects. The Tocols in Barley are recognized for their antioxidant, and immune modulating effects. They have been found to inhibit lipid peroxidation which can cause systemic inflammation due to fatty acids being oxidized. One of the more striking effects of Tocols is the ability to breakdown and clear atherosclerotic plaques in the carotid artery which studies have found is the reason that barley reduces the risk for stroke. If you are looking for a well-rounded plant with various health promoting benefits, then barley is that plant, follow along as we dive into the many wonders of barely.

Blood Glucose, Diabetes, and Glycation

Many of the functional enzymes in barley have been found to scavenge free radicals which thereby protects against vascular diseases, it has also been found to regulate the blood glucose in diabetics and some of the Polyamines in barley have a similar insulin function and anti-Glycation effect, and when these polyamines are in blood circulation. They stop the glycosylation of sugars and proteins under hypoglycemic concentrations. Glycation happens when there is excess glucose in the body which causes the sugars to adhere to collagen or elastic proteins. This process is known as Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs). When they are formed and when they are glycosylated, they make the collagen in the body look more rigid and it loses its ability to stay firm and making the skin sag and contributing to aging. Glycation end products also play a role in diabetes, and they are believed to be the reason there are vascular complications in diabetes. Glycation can also affect circulating proteins such as albumin, insulin, lipoproteins, and hemoglobin and induce oxidative stress and proinflammatory markers that are implicated in endothelial dysfunction, microvascular complications, and arterial stiffening. The Polyamines in barley can help fight this glycation process. A more similar understanding of glycation is The HBA1C test to screen for prediabetes of diabetes. A glycated hemoglobin test measures the amount of glucose (sugar) in your blood. Hemoglobin is the substance inside red blood cells that carries oxygen to the cells of the body. Glucose is a sugar that is found in the blood and it can get stuck to hemoglobin molecules, or glycosylated. Overtime a person's blood sugar becomes higher, due to more of the hemoglobin becoming glycosylated and because the glucose remains attached to the hemoglobin for the life of the red blood cell, or about 2 to 3 months.

Liver and Hepatocytes

Barley contains saponarin which has liver health-promoting effects, barley helps to reduce inflammatory responses that are induced by alcohol, thereby protecting the liver and its cells. Saponarins are also hepatoprotective and protect the liver cells from oxidation. The beta-glucans in barley have also been found to protect against fatty liver disease in diabetics or those with obesity. The phenolic acids in barley aid in hepatoprotection under oxidative stress by activating the Hrf2 gene which induces the antioxidant system.

Pesticides, cancer, and inflammation Interestingly enough barley has also been found to degrade six distinct types of organophosphate pesticides. The enzymes in barley have been found to not only help with oxidation but depending on the stage of barley it has a mild anti-cancer effect with antiproliferative and anti-apoptotic functions on certain cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma as well as breast cancer cells. Barley has a compound known as “Tricin” Which clinically have been shown to be effective for Melanoma cells. Many studies show the gut promoting effects of barley. One study found that the anti-inflammatory properties in barley grain helps to heal the intestinal lining in gastrointestinal tract disorders, pancreatitis, and ulcerated colitis. The Saponarin content plays a huge role in the gut health promoting effects, as it has also been found to scavenge radical oxygen species and down regulate the inflammatory protein, Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha


Cholesterol, High Blood Pressure, and Obesity:

It is well known that beta-glucan from foods can be beneficial in reducing cholesterol. A myriad of studies shows that the beta-glucan in barley which is a soluble fiber has cholesterol-lowering abilities when compared to cholesterol drugs. One study found that a diet high in barley significantly reduced low-density lipoprotein and non-high-density lipoprotein by 7%. Furthermore, barley helps to reduce cholesterol by promoting bile acid synthesis and reabsorption thereby controlling cholesterol synthesis and accumulation in the peripheral tissues while down-regulating the expression of the cholesterol pathway enzyme. The beta-glucan is also associated with regulating blood pressure. Another study also found that the beta-glucan also acts on visceral fat, and its anti-obesity effects are due to beta glucan and phenolic acids such as ferulic acid and vanillic acid.

Barley is packed with nutrients but many of its health effects come from the phytonutrients and phytonutrients one of them being Beta-glucans. The beta-glucans can interact with intestinal lipids and bile to reduce cholesterol, they can control appetite, and improve insulin sensitivity, Barley even plays a role in the formation of short-chain fatty acids, and it has various immune-modulating effects. Barley Arabinoxylan also has a lot of health benefits as it has been found to improve urinary metabolites that are associated with diabetes, it also has prebiotic effects in the gut, it can also increase anti-cancer of effects through immune modulation. Epidemiological studies have associated the regular consumption of barley with its potential to reduce the risk of certain diseases, such as chronic heart disease, colon cancer, high blood pressure, and gallstones.

Idehen, E., Tang, Y., & Sang, S. (2016, November 4). Bioactive phytochemicals in Barley. Journal of Food and Drug Analysis. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from

Negre-Salvayre A, Salvayre R, Augé N, Pamplona R, Portero-Otín M. Hyperglycemia and glycation in diabetic complications. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2009 Dec;11(12):3071-109. doi: 10.1089/ars.2009.2484. PMID: 19489690.

Zeng Y, Pu X, Yang J, et al. Preventive and Therapeutic Role of Functional Ingredients of Barley Grass for Chronic Diseases in Human Beings. Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2018;2018:3232080. Published 2018

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