FDA Approves Health Claim for Barley

Healthnotes Newswire (July 20, 2006)—People can lower their heart disease risk by eating barley, and the evidence is strong enough that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that this health claim can be printed on the packaging of barley and foods containing barley.

Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of disability and death in the Western world. A healthy lifestyle—including eating a high-fiber, low-saturated-fat diet and getting regular exercise—can go a long way in preventing heart disease.

Barley, like oats and some other whole grains, contains high amounts of soluble fiber. A wealth of scientific evidence shows that eating a diet rich in soluble fiber can reduce total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels, two of the major contributors to cardiac risk. Fiber also helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels stable, and other components of whole grains likely have some positive effects on heart disease risk and general health.

Because these effects have been well documented, labels on packages of whole grain barley and foods made with barley that contain at least 0.75 grams of soluble fiber per serving are now permitted to carry the following claim: “Soluble fiber from foods such as [name of food], as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. A serving of [name of food] supplies [x] grams of the soluble fiber necessary per day to have this effect.”

A rule finalized in 2003 allowed a similar health claim for whole oats and foods containing oats.

This ruling reflects a relatively new effort on the part of the FDA to educate consumers about healthy eating and help them identify foods that contribute to their specific health goals. This latest health claim approval, for example, could steer someone away from foods such as breads and crackers made with highly refined grain products toward those made with high fiber, dry milled barley products such as flakes, grits, flour, and pearled barley.

“FDA is pursuing new initiatives to help consumers improve the choices they have for healthy and nutritious diets,” said FDA Deputy Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD. “We firmly believe that one of the best ways to encourage healthier eating habits is to help consumers get truthful, up-to-date, science-based information about food products so that they can make choices that are based on a better understanding of the health consequences of their diets.”

Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, VT, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.

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