People also take barley to try to promote weight loss or help prevent some types of cancer.
Barley is probably effective at reducing total cholesterol and LDL "bad" cholesterol. It may also lower triglycerides and increase HDL "good" cholesterol levels, but the research has been mixed. How much it lowers cholesterol may depend upon how many grams you eat. The effect may also be less when barley is highly processed.
Risks. Barley is generally safe in the amounts found in foods, even if you are pregnant. But do not eat large amounts of cooked barley sprouts while pregnant. Due to the risk of bacteria that can cause illness, pregnant women, children, the elderly, and people with weak immune systems should avoid eating raw or lightly cooked sprouts of any kind, the FDA says. And avoid taking barley supplements when breastfeeding, just to be safe.
Also avoid eating barley or taking barley supplements if you have celiac disease. The gluten in barley may cause problems.
Stop taking barley at least 2 weeks before surgery, since it could affect blood sugar control.
Interactions. There is a chance that barley could lower blood sugar too much if combined with herbs, supplements, or drugs that do the same thing. Other supplements that may lower blood sugar levels include:
The fiber in barley also might make it harder for your body to absorb certain drugs.
The FDA allows food products containing three-fourths of a gram of soluble fiber from barley per serving to make this claim: It may reduce the risk of heart disease when used as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.
Talk with your doctor before taking any supplements, even if they're natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications or foods. He or she can let you know if the supplement might increase your risks.