Physiological effects of concentrated barley beta-glucan in mildly hypercholesterolemic adults

J Am Coll Nutr. 2008 Jun;27(3):434-40. doi: 10.1080/07315724.2008.10719722.


Objective: Barley fiber rich in beta-glucans lowers serum lipids, but is difficult to incorporate into products acceptable to consumers. We investigated the physiological effects of two concentrated barley beta-glucans on cardiovascular disease (CVD) endpoints and body weight in human subjects.

Methods: Hypercholesterolemic men and women (n = 90) were randomly assigned to one of two treatments: low molecular weight (low-MW) or high molecular weight (high-MW) concentrated barley beta-glucan consumed as a daily supplement containing 6 grams beta-glucan/day. Fasting blood samples were collected at baseline and week 6 and analyzed for total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin, homocysteine and C-reactive protein (CRP). Dietary intakes, body weights, blood pressure, hunger ratings, and gastrointestinal symptoms were measured at baseline and 6 weeks.

Results: The only difference between treatments in lipid outcomes at week 6 was a reduction of the cholesterol/HDL ratio in the low-MW group and a small increase in the high-MW group. No changes were found in blood pressure, glucose, insulin, and gastrointestinal symptoms. Body weight decreased from baseline to 6 weeks in the high-MW group while body weight increased in the low-MW group. Levels of hunger decreased slightly in the low-MW group and decreased significantly in the high-MW group (P = 0.02)

Conclusion: Overall, supplementation with isolated barley beta-glucans of different molecular weights had small effects on cardiovascular disease markers. Molecular weight of the barley fiber did alter effects on body weight with the high-MW fiber significantly decreasing body weight.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Blood Glucose / analysis
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Cholesterol / physiology
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Intake
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Tract / physiology
  • Hordeum
  • Humans
  • Hunger / drug effects*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / drug therapy
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology*
  • Insulin / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • beta-Glucans / pharmacology*
  • beta-Glucans / therapeutic use


  • Blood Glucose
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Insulin
  • Triglycerides
  • beta-Glucans
  • Cholesterol