New oat and barley breads could lower cholesterol

Posted by Nicole Eckersley on 16th March 2010

Researchers at California’s Agricultural Research Service have released research highlighting the possibility of replacing gluten in oat and barley loaves to make fluffy, attractive wheat-free breads.

In wheat and other gluten-containing breads, gluten traps air bubbles formed by yeast in the rising process, giving a high, soft, attractive loaf.  Existing oat and barley breads tend to be dense, heavy and less attractive to the consumer.

Chemist Wallace Yokohama and nutritionist Hyunsook Kim successfully replaced gluten with HPMC (hydroxypropyl methylcelluluse, a commonly-used thickener) to create attractive loaves made entirely of oat and barley.  The HPMC that the scientists investigated is derived from a plant source proprietary to manufacturer Do

The breads could have a variety of health benefits.  When fed to laboratory hamsters, Yokohama and Kim found the experimental breads had cholesterol-lowering effects.  This may relate to oat and barley’s richness in beta-glucan, a soluble fibre.  Beta-glucan is believed to have a wide variety of health benefits, including lowering blood pressure, lowering cholesterol, improving digestive and immune health, and potentially fighting cancer.  According to Yokohama, these breads could provide a different array of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, protein, and other components that aren’t present in whole-wheat breads.