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Combining functional features of whole-grain barley and legumes for dietary reduction of cardiometabolic risk: a randomised cross-over intervention in mature women

  • Juscelino Tovar (a1), Anne Nilsson (a2), Maria Johansson (a1) and Inger Björck (a1) (a2)

The usefulness of dietary strategies against cardiometabolic risk is increasingly being acknowledged. Legumes and whole grains can modulate risk markers associated with cardiometabolic diseases, but their possible additive/synergistic actions are unknown. The objective of the present study was to assess, in healthy subjects, the effect of a diet including specific whole-grain barley products and legumes with prior favourable outcomes on cardiometabolic risk parameters in semi-acute studies. A total of forty-six overweight women (50–72 years, BMI 25–33 kg/m2 and normal fasting glycaemia) participated in a randomised cross-over intervention comparing a diet rich in kernel-based barley products, brown beans and chickpeas (D1, diet 1 (functional diet)) with a control diet (D2, diet 2 (control diet)) of similar macronutrient composition but lacking legumes and barley. D1 included 86 g (as eaten)/d brown beans, 82 g/d chickpeas, 58 g/d whole-grain barley kernels and 216 g/d barley kernel bread. Both diets followed the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, providing similar amounts of dietary fibre (D1: 46·9 g/d; D2: 43·5 g/d), with wheat-based products as the main fibre supplier in D2. Each diet was consumed for 4 weeks under weight-maintenance conditions. Both diets decreased serum total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol levels, but D1 had a greater effect on total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels (P< 0·001 and P< 0·05, respectively). D1 also reduced apoB (P< 0·001) and γ-glutamyl transferase (P< 0·05) levels, diastolic blood pressure (P< 0·05) and the Framingham cardiovascular risk estimate (P< 0·05). D1 increased colonic fermentative activity, as judged from the higher (P< 0·001) breath hydrogen levels recorded. In conclusion, a specific barley/legume diet improves cardiometabolic risk-associated biomarkers in a healthy cohort, showing potential preventive value beyond that of a nutritionally well-designed regimen.

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*Corresponding author: J. Tovar, email
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