Eating bread or other foods made with barley could beat obesity , heart disease and diabetes, according to new research.
The ' superfood ' has a special mix of dietary fibres which boosts metabolism and reduces appetite, blood sugar and insulin levels.
Pale brown in colour and resembling wheat berries barley is used in breads, breakfast cereals, puddings, porridges, stews and soups and is believed to be the oldest cultivated cereal.
The barley germ is encased inside the starchy grain, which is coated with a thin, tough bran husk.
Professor Anne Nilsson, of Lund University in Sweden, said: “It’s surprising yet promising that choosing the right blend of dietary fibres can - in a short period of time - generate such remarkable health benefits”
In the study healthy middle-aged participants who were asked to eat bread largely made out of barley kernels (up to 85 per cent) for three days - at breakfast, lunch and dinner.
About 11 to 14 hours after their final meal of the day tests for diabetes and heart disease showed their metabolism improved for up to 14 hours - with additional benefits such as decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels, increases in insulin sensitivity and improved appetite control.
The effects arise when the special mixture of dietary fibres in barley kernel reaches the gut - stimulating the increase of good bacteria and the release of important hormones.
Prof Nilsson said: “After eating the bread made out of barley kernel we saw an increase in gut hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite - and an increase in a hormone that helps reduce chronic low-grade inflammation among the participants.
“In time this could help prevent the occurrence of both cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
Researchers hope more knowledge about the impact of specific dietary fibres on people’s health will result in stores keeping more food products with healthy properties such as barley kernels.
The ambition is also to get more people to use barley in meals - for example in salads, soups, stews or as an alternative to rice or potatoes.