British Journal of Nutrition

Full Papers

Human and Clinical Nutrition

Combining functional features of whole-grain barley and legumes for dietary reduction of cardiometabolic risk: a randomised cross-over intervention in mature women

Juscelino Tovara1 c1, Anne Nilssona2, Maria Johanssona1 and Inger Björcka1a2

a1 Antidiabetic Food Centre, Lund University, PO Box 124, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden

a2 Department of Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, Lund University, SE-221 00 Lund, Sweden


The usefulness of dietary strategies against cardiometabolic risk is increasingly being acknowledged. Legumes and whole grains can modulate risk markers associated with cardiometabolic diseases, but their possible additive/synergistic actions are unknown. The objective of the present study was to assess, in healthy subjects, the effect of a diet including specific whole-grain barley products and legumes with prior favourable outcomes on cardiometabolic risk parameters in semi-acute studies. A total of forty-six overweight women (50–72 years, BMI 25–33 kg/m2 and normal fasting glycaemia) participated in a randomised cross-over intervention comparing a diet rich in kernel-based barley products, brown beans and chickpeas (D1, diet 1 (functional diet)) with a control diet (D2, diet 2 (control diet)) of similar macronutrient composition but lacking legumes and barley. D1 included 86 g (as eaten)/d brown beans, 82 g/d chickpeas, 58 g/d whole-grain barley kernels and 216 g/d barley kernel bread. Both diets followed the Nordic Nutrition Recommendations, providing similar amounts of dietary fibre (D1: 46·9 g/d; D2: 43·5 g/d), with wheat-based products as the main fibre supplier in D2. Each diet was consumed for 4 weeks under weight-maintenance conditions. Both diets decreased serum total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol and HDL-cholesterol levels, but D1 had a greater effect on total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol levels (P< 0·001 and P< 0·05, respectively). D1 also reduced apoB (P< 0·001) and γ-glutamyl transferase (P< 0·05) levels, diastolic blood pressure (P< 0·05) and the Framingham cardiovascular risk estimate (P< 0·05). D1 increased colonic fermentative activity, as judged from the higher (P< 0·001) breath hydrogen levels recorded. In conclusion, a specific barley/legume diet improves cardiometabolic risk-associated biomarkers in a healthy cohort, showing potential preventive value beyond that of a nutritionally well-designed regimen.

(Received February 13 2013)

(Revised July 08 2013)

(Accepted August 21 2013)

(Online publication September 24 2013)

Key Words:

  • Cardiovascular risk;
  • Dietary prevention;
  • Legumes;
  • Barley


c1 Corresponding author: J. Tovar, email


  Abbreviations: BP, blood pressure; D1, diet 1 (functional diet); D2, diet 2 (control diet); GGT, γ-glutamyl transferase