Volunteers wanted: Researchers from Agrotecnio and the University of Lleida are studying the health benefits of barley

May 17, 2024

Researchers from the Crop Physiology research group at Agrotecnio and the University of Lleida (UdL) have been working since 2003 on the development of new barley genotypes with high levels of soluble fibre for human consumption. Together with the research group Bioactive Compounds in Food (Agrotecnio-UdL) and the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) of Lleida, they are developing the INNOBAR project, funded by the Ministry of Science and Innovation, which proposes in-depth research to evaluate the added value and the effect on health of new barley genotypes biofortified in fibre and polyphenols.

Scientific evidence has shown that the consumption of whole grains has beneficial effects on human health, especially in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. Recently, there has been a qualitative change in the demand for foods with functional properties, society demands that food products not only provide the necessary nutrients, but also help to prevent diseases caused by an inadequate diet.

The research group is currently seeking volunteers to conduct a human study to assess the effects of dietary supplementation of three different barley products compared to a wheat control group in a breakfast cereal format. Under the coordination of researcher and dietitian-nutritionist Laura Rubió, this study will examine how consumption of these barley-based products modulates gut microbiota and markers of immunity and inflammation.

They are looking for people aged between 25 and 65 with cardiometabolic risk factors, such as overweight or obesity, high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The study, which has already begun, will last 5 weeks and participants will have to go to the Institute for Research in Biomedicine (IRB) in Lleida at the beginning and end, where they will be attended by health professionals, will have to provide a stool sample, and will undergo a blood test. The participation of volunteers is still open and can be formalised by sending an email to engracia.cortijo@udl.cat or by calling +34 973 70 64 80.

According to the project’s lead researchers, Marian Moralejo and Maria Paz Romero, “crops must have greater diversity, be more efficient and allow for the production of healthier foods. In this context, barley, despite being a cereal produced mainly for animal consumption in our territory, is gaining renewed attention as an ingredient in the production of healthy foods given its high nutritional value and the functional properties of its bioactive compounds”.