Are Oats and Barley healthier from the north

Dr Karen Scott, from the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health said: “We know whole grains like oats and barley are good for our health - both of these crops contain a specific carbohydrate called beta-glucan which has been shown to lower cholesterol. What our study is investigating is whether certain growing environments optimise the nutritional benefits found in these crops, and if specific varieties are actually even better for us than others.”

The study will look at the same varieties of oats and barley and compare those grown in Aberystwyth, Dundee and Orkney.  It will also examine whether different varieties of the crops (particularly ancient strains) have different health benefits. it is suspected that some nutritional value may have been bred out of modern strains following the Industrial Revolution.

Dr Scott explained: “We believe that the colder temperatures experienced in more northerly parts of the UK may enhance the nutritional values in oats and barley. “The reasoning behind this is linked to molecules called lipids - which these crops contain more of, than other cereals. These molecules become saturated or unsaturated during the growth cycle depending on the conditions in which the crops are grown.  More unsaturated lipids are formed when colder temperatures prevail- conditions commonly found in more northerly areas - whilst more saturated lipids form under warmer conditions typically found further south in the UK. Having more unsaturated lipids in our foods is better for the health, as when ingested these lipids lower levels of the bad cholesterol in our bodies, which otherwise could lead to the development cardiovascular disease. Our study will analyse crops grown in Orkney with the same crops grown in Wales and Dundee to investigate whether there is evidence for this trend in the formation of lipids which we would expect to see.”

For more information on oats and cholesterol go here, for the benefits of barley follow this link, for nutritional supplements of oats (Avena Sativa) go here and for good old reliable oatmeal  or barley use this link.