Barley and Beta- glucan

Barley contains a soluble (dissolves in water) dietary fiber called Beta Glucan. Beta-glucans are polysaccharides occurring in the bran of cereal grains (barley-7%, oats-5%, rye-2% and wheat-less than 1%), the cell wall of baker’s yeast, fungi, and some mushrooms. Dietary fiber is the indigestible portion of food derived from plants. Beta glucan is readily fermented in the colon into gases and physiologically active byproducts, and can be prebiotic (sets digestive tract up to produce healthy bacteria) and viscous. There has been lots of research regarding beta-glucans leading to discoveries regarding their immune system boosting properties, and other benefits that may come from a diet containing them.1

Since 2006, health claims for beta-glucan containing foods have been allowed in the United States, Canada, Sweden, Finland, and the United Kingdom. The health claims approved by the FDA and the European Food Safety Authority are based on research showing that consuming 3 g of beta-glucans per day, from either oats or barley, can lower blood cholesterol levels by 6% to 8%.2 Health claims for reduced chance of coronary heart disease and reduced risk of cancer for grain products is allowed for those naturally containing .6 grams per serving.3 Please note: A certified lab has verified that the beverage produced when RoBarr is prepared according to package directions, contains .69% beta glucan, or .69 grams per 100 grams ingested.

Why Beta-glucans are of interest

Some cereals, such as barley and oats, are of economic interest because they contain large amounts of beta-glucans. It is believed that they help your body fight off the common cold, respiratory diseases, but also more serious conditions like cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes. These substances stimulate the immune system, enhancing cell immunity, and thereby have a beneficial effect in fighting bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections. Research indicates they help regulate blood glucose levels. Beta-glucans also lower blood cholesterol levels and prevent harmful blood clots. Recently, it has been demonstrated they help prevent cell damage, cell mutation and tumors, making them a promising candidate as pharmacological promoters of health.1,2,4

“Barley has a distinct advantage over some other grains in that beta-glucan soluble fiber is found throughout the entire barley kernel. In some other grains, the fiber is only found in the outer bran layer. If these grains are processed, the fiber can be easily lost. This is not the case with barley. Since fiber is found throughout the barley kernel, even refined products such as barley flour contain beta-glucan soluble fiber making the grain a versatile and heart-healthy ingredient for commercial food applications.”4

How Beta-glucans work

Beta glucans regulate the immune system as they pass through the intestinal tract.5 Some beta-glucans interact with immune cells and stimulate the immune system directly.6 Studies have shown that beta glucans act as immunomodulator agents, meaning they trigger a cascade of events that help regulate the immune system, making it more efficient. Specifically, beta glucans stimulate the activity of macrophages, which are versatile immune cells that ingest and demolish invading pathogens and stimulate other immune cells to attack.7 Macrophages also release cytokines, chemicals that when secreted enable the immune cells to communicate with one another. In addition, beta glucans stimulate lethal white blood cells (lymphocytes) that bind to tumors or viruses, and release chemicals to destroy them.

Beta-glucans and your heart

“No doubt you’ve heard about the heart health benefits associated with a diet that includes consuming oats. That’s partly because oats are good sources of the soluble fiber beta glucan. In a study conducted by the US Department of Agriculture’s Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center in Maryland, beta glucan was concentrated into an oat fiber extract so it could be easily incorporated into a typical diet. Male and female study participants with mildly high cholesterol were put on a maintenance diet for one week and then were given an oat fiber extract containing either 1% or 10% beta glucan. After five weeks of receiving the beta glucan extract, both groups showed a significant reduction of total cholesterol and low density lipoprotein (LDL).What’s more, total cholesterol levels were significantly lower in the group who received the higher beta glucan extract diet than in those on the low beta glucan diet.8, 14” says Rachel Grumman in her Life Extension magazine article in 2009. Barley is even higher in beta glucan concentrations than oats.

Beta glucans and diabetics –

Densie Webb, PhD, RD wrote an article in the May 2014 issue of Today’s Dietitian, quoting the following facts: “Oat and barley foods have been shown to reduce the risk of glucose intolerance by slowing glucose absorption after a meal,” says Susan M. Tosh, PhD, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, an organization that provides information, research, and technology programs and policies related to food and agriculture. “One study followed more than 65,000 women for six years and found that dietary fiber, including beta-glucan intake, was inversely associated with the development of type 2 diabetes.8 A recent laboratory study suggested that beta-glucans from barley have the potential to decrease glycemic response between 20% and 25%.10”
“Viscous fibers such as psyllium, beta-glucans, and pectin may form a gel in the small intestine, which acts to delay nutrient absorption, slowing the delivery of glucose into the bloodstream and reducing the need for insulin. These fibers’ ability to lower postprandial glycemia and insulinemia, as well as cholesterol, has been established in numerous studies, but long-term effects are less well known. Bacteria ferment beta-glucans in the intestinal tract, producing short-chain fatty acids. These may stimulate insulin release from the pancreas and alter glycogen breakdown by the liver and therefore play a role in glucose metabolism and protect against insulin resistance.11 In some people, beta-glucans have caused weight loss due to appetite suppression. However, it’s unknown whether appetite suppression is the result of increased fullness or an effect of insulin regulation.9”
“Researchers argue that the dosage, food form, interaction with satiety, and molecular weight of beta glucan determine the way in which glycemia is regulated in patients with diabetes. For example, a study showed that when individuals with abnormal cholesterol levels ingested five grams per day of beta glucan in beverage form, their glucose and insulin responses improved significantly after five weeks. On the other hand, incorporation of beta glucan in pasta did not significantly reduce postprandial glucose levels.”12

“A recent study reinforces the dose-related effect of soluble beta glucan fiber in favorably affecting glucose metabolism. The research confirmed the beneficial effects of a standardized dose of barley beta glucan in beverage form.”12

Can Beta glucans prevent cancer?

While research is currently being done, several studies have shown that beta glucans can be effective in helping prevent some forms of cancer, and possibly extending the life of those with cancer. Results of one pubmed study in laymans terms says, beta-glucans have shown anti-cancer causing activity. They can prevent the formation of tumors due to their protective effect against potent cancer causing agents that mutate cells. By stimulating your immune system, beta-glucans can help prevent tumor growth. They stop blood flow to the tumor, preventing them from spreading. Beta glucan, when given in addition to chemotherapy or radiotherapy, has shown a positive result in generating or developing blood cells following bone marrow injury. Tumor and other cancer cells lack beta-glucan so can’t trigger cancer and tumor killing activity. Beta glucan can help this happen.13

Research studies have shown different aspects of possible cancer prevention, and treatments with beta-glucan. The FDA allows health claims for cancer prevention in products containing .6 grams of beta-glucan. A certified lab has proven RoBarr has .69 % meaning .69 grams per 100 grams of brewed beverage. Evidence exists that beta-glucans can help prevent cancer, tumors, and other diseases, and research is being done to see if beta glucans can be used to treat cancer. Beta-glucans have been used in Japan to treat cancer since 1980.14 Doctors in the UK have been recommending barley water to their cancer patients for over two decades. In a pubmed study of 23 female patients, a conclusion was cited that: “Oral beta glucan administration seems to stimulate proliferation and activation of peripheral blood monocytes in vivo in patients with advanced breast cancer.”15 In layman terms, this means a higher count of white blood cells, which help your body fight off breast cancer.

“Although there isn’t a single magic bullet when it comes to eliminating disease, scores of research shows that adding beta glucan to your daily diet—either in the form of supplements or foods that contain the compound—can play a significant role in helping your body fend off not only the common cold and respiratory infections but also more serious diseases, including cancer.”14
While researching beta glucan, I found many articles that were linked to concentrated beta glucan products for sale claiming only a certain type of beta glucan found in mushrooms is effective against cancer. I found no scientific research that indicated that is true. An article on the web by Dr. Andrew Weil suggests eating mushrooms over supplements. He does not address possible benefits from increasing barley consumption.  I found other articles of interest, but only used referenced information, and research that I felt was from a reliable source. I do NOT want to mislead any of my customers regarding RoBarr. RoBarr has proven to contain .69% beta glucan so it may be deduced that it is a healthy beverage worth drinking since beta glucan has many medicinal benefits, and those include reduced risk of type II diabetes, some cancers and coronary heart disease. RoBarr does NOT claim to be a cure or treatment for them.
(please note: some of my customers brew their beverage and then stir the grounds into their oatmeal, eating them. This would certainly increase the amount of dietary fiber ingested, since RoBarr grounds contain 11.9 grams of dietary fiber)  Dietary fiber helps lower blood cholesterol which helps prevent heart disease.


  5. Ramberg J, Nelson E, Sinnott R. Immunomodulatory dietary polysaccharides: a systematic review of the literature. Nutr J. 2010;9:1-60.
  6. Vetvicka V, Thornton B, Ross G. Soluble β-glucan polysaccharide binding to the lectin site of neutrophil or natural killer cell complement receptor type 3 (CD11b/CD18) generates a primed state of the receptor capable of mediating cytotoxicity of iC3b-Opsonized target cells. J Clin Invest. 1996;98(1):50-61.
  8. J Am Coll Nutr.1997 Feb;16(1):46-5.
  9. Clark M, Slavin J. The effect of fiber on satiety and food intake: a systematic review. J Am Coll Nutr. 2013;32(3):200-211.
  11. El Khoury D, Cuda C, Luhovyy BL, Anderson GH. Beta glucan: health benefits in obesity and metabolic syndrome. J Nutr Metab. 2012;(2012):851362. doi: 10.1155/2012/851362.

Other research sources used:

Updated 10/7/2017