Regardless of whether you train primarily for aesthetics, strength, sports performance, or health—with regular exercise you will reap benefits in all areas of health and fitness. Take it one step further and combine your regular training regimen with a balanced diet and a well thought out supplement plan and you will look better, feel stronger, improve performance, and be healthier in no time.
Most of us in the 30+ age group tend to be at the crossroads in what motivates us to train. Where heavy training and strict diet were once a way to slay the competition and look good at the beach, they have now become ways to combat the negative effects of aging and increase lifespan. After all, as you get older, regular yearly check-ups at the doctors may surprise you and point out where your health maybe starting to slide—most commonly, disparities in blood lipids (like cholesterol) tend to show up without any symptoms.
Fear not! Like exercise, research has shown that some key supplements play roles in improving health, performance, and fitness. One such supplement is β-glucan, a thick soluble fiber found in barley and oats, which has been shown to support the immune system, reduce bad cholesterol levels, and protect against cardiovascular disease. Based on recent interest in barley as a food supplement, researchers from Toronto (Canada) conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized control trials investigating the cholesterol-lowering potential of barley β-glucan. The researchers systematically analyzed 14 trials involving 615 healthy participants (~20-60 years old) with high cholesterol and found that diets supplemented with 6.5 to 6.9 g/day of β-glucan decreased ‘bad cholesterol’ (LDL and non-HDL cholesterol) by 7%.
ACTION POINT: Keeping your blood lipids within healthy boundaries will maintain cardiovascular health and keep you training hard for years to come. Most people can benefit from taking a β-glucan supplement, especially those who are 30 + years old or have been told that their LDL or non-HDL cholesterol is slightly elevated. In order to take in 6.5-6.9 g of β-glucan per day, we suggest increasing your daily barley intake and using a β-glucan supplement. Of note, 1/4 cup of uncooked (1 cup cooked) pearl barley has about 193 calories and 3 g of β-glucan.
Ho HV, Sievenpiper JL, Zurbau A, Mejia SB, Jovanovski E, Au-Yeung F, Jenkins AL, Vuksan V. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the effect of barley β-glucan on LDL-C, non-HDL-C and apoB for cardiovascular disease risk reductioni-iv. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2016 Jun 8. doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2016.89. [Epub ahead of print]