Barley foods have gotten the FDA's approval to claim that they reduce the risk of heart disease.

Starting immediately, food manufacturers can use the claim for whole-grain barley and barley-containing foods that provide at least three-fourths of a gram of soluble fiber per serving.

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Consumers can expect to see the health claim for whole barley and dry-milled barley products such as flakes, grits, flour, and barley meal, an FDA news release states.

Cutting Cholesterol

Almost half a million people per year die of heart disease, according to the FDA. Risk factors include high levels of total cholesterol and of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol.

"Scientific evidence shows that adding barley to one's diet can contribute to lowering serum cholesterol," states the FDA news release.

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WebMD reported on a study of barley's cholesterol-lowering powers in December 2004.

The FDA has already approved health claims for whole-grain foods, which include oats, barley, brown rice, and a host of other grains.

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But simply adding barley to a diet of cheeseburgers and pizza won't help. To fully reap the benefits of barley and other whole grains, you must follow other heart-friendly dietary and lifestyle habits.

Better Information, Better Choices

Scott Gottlieb, MD, the FDA deputy commissioner for medical and scientific affairs, commented on barley's new health claim.

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"Promoting health by helping people get better nutrition information about the foods they eat is among FDA's top priorities, because the choices that Americans make about their diet have a great impact on their well-being," Gottlieb says in the news release.

"The FDA review process for making health claims, when combined with our strong enforcement work, rewards companies that make healthier products while we enforce the law against companies that appeal to consumers through false and misleading health claims," Gottlieb says.

Visit WebMD's Heart Disease Health Center

Written by Miranda Hitti; Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD.

SOURCES: News release, FDA. WebMD Medical News: "Barley Helps Lower Cholesterol." WebMD Feature: "Tips for Reaping the Benefits of Whole Grains."