Beta-glucans are special types of sugars that are found in the cell walls of certain microbes, as well as in oats and barley. They are healthy fibers that humans cannot digest, but that can be digested by some species of our gut bacteria.
In their search for foods that encourage the growth of good bacteria in the gut, scientists have come out with Beta-glucan-enriched pasta. The research team observed that people fed with Beta-glucan-enriched pasta for two months showed increased populations of beneficial bacteria in their intestinal tracts, and reduced populations of non-beneficial bacteria. They also reduced the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels in the body.
Beta-glucans are used clinically against diabetes, cancer, and high cholesterol. They boost the immune systems of people whose immunity has been compromised by radiation, chemotherapy, stress, and other conditions.
Co-author Maria De Angelis said, "We hypothesized that by feeding study subjects Beta-glucan-enriched pasta, they could modify the species composition of the gut bacteria, possibly leading to improved human health." The Beta-glucan-enriched pasta was made from a mixture of 75% durum wheat flour and 25% whole grain barley flour. The daily dose of pasta, 100 grams, contained about 3 grams of barley Beta-glucans, the recommended daily dose in the US and in Europe.
De Angelis said, "These results highlight the influence of fibers and of the Mediterranean diet on gut microbiota, and indirectly on human health."
The study has been published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.