Meadville Tribune

Our Generation

March 16, 2009

OUR HEALTH: Barley for the heart

By STEVE KARNOWSKI

Associated Press Writer



MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Locked within each grain of barley is something that can help keep a heart healthy.

Backed by research showing that it can cut cholesterol, Cargill is rolling out a new ingredient it's touting as the next big thing in functional foods, a fiber product made from whole-grain barley that can hide in foods and beverages without adding unpleasant texture, taste or bulk.

A pear-merlot juice blend from Bolthouse Farms this month will become the first consumer product to hit grocery stores containing Cargill's Barliv barley betafiber. The labels bear a statement approved by the Food and Drug Administration saying it can help promote a healthy heart. Cargill says other Barliv products are likely to come out soon, including waters, snacks, cereals and bakery goods.

Barliv is the Minnetonka-based agribusiness giant's latest foray into foods that promote health or prevent disease. Its Corowise cholesterol-lowering plant sterols have been available for a while in products such as Centrum Cardio vitamins, orange juice and milk. Barliv also follows Cargill's recent launch of Truvia, a natural zero-calorie sweetener made from the stevia plant that's sold as a tabletop sweetener and in the new Sprite Green and some Odwalla juice drinks from the Coca-Cola Co.

Barley betafiber is a source of beta-glucan soluble fiber, the same fiber that gives oatmeal its well-known cholesterol-cutting power, but Barliv is much more concentrated. That lets manufacturers slip it into a wider variety of foods, Cargill officials say.

"When you eat a bowl of oatmeal you know you're eating a bowl of oatmeal," said Bill Rock, Cargill's brand manager for Barliv.

The pear-merlot drink tastes of those fruits, with a pink rose color, smooth texture and a slight natural viscosity that comes from the fruit, not the Barliv. The FDA-approved health claim on the label says the risk of heart disease may be reduced by diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 3 grams daily of beta-glucan soluble fiber.

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