Regulator queries high level health claim for beta-glucan and cholesterol in Australia and New Zealand

The evidence for barley's clood cholesterol benefits was 'moderate'.  ©iStock

Products containing oats, but not barley, should be permitted to make higher level health claims relating to blood cholesterol benefits, according to regulator Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code currently permits a high level health claim to be based on a relationship between beta-glucan from both oats or barley.

However, it is now proposing the change based on a systematic review.

The review reports that despite the inclusion of 54 RCTs, it was not possible to assess the relationship between beta-glucan and blood cholesterol.

“No RCT identified in the literature search has assessed the effects of intake of 100% pure beta-glucan on blood cholesterol concentration,” states the review.

“As none of the studies tested pure beta-glucan, they did not directly test the effects of beta-glucan on blood cholesterol. Therefore, FSANZ considers that the results described in the literature cannot be unequivocally attributed to beta-glucan, but can only be attributed to the tested product. In conclusion, the currency of a food-health relationship between beta-glucan from either oats or barley and blood cholesterol concentration cannot be assessed.”

Body of evidence

The review, did however, go on to assess the benefits of consuming oats or barley on blood cholesterol levels.

“The  body of evidence gives a ‘high’ degree of certainty for the relationship between the consumption of oats and decreased total and LDL cholesterol concentration,” it adds.

“The body of evidence gives a ‘moderate’ degree of certainty for the relationship between the consumption of barley and decreased total and LDL cholesterol concentration.”

FSANZ is now calling for submissions to understand any stakeholder issues and implications for the code that may arise from the outcomes of the systematic review.

The deadline for submissions is 6pm (Canberra time) on September 14.