A pasta enriched with fiber beta-glucan helps good bacteria to grow in the intestinal tract, giving the immune system an added boost.

Twenty-six healthy males and female ate a special pasta mix for two months. The special pasta is made up of 75 percent durum wheat flour and 25 percent whole-grain barley. The 100-gram pasta diet gave the participants the recommended daily dose of 3-gram beta-glucans.

Beta-glucan is a type of fiber that encourages the growth of good bacteria in the intestines to help fight the bad bacteria, strengthening the immune system. This soluble fiber also helps in reducing levels of blood sugar and preventing the absorption of cholesterol in the stomach and intestines, lowering blood cholesterol in effect.

The human body is not capable of manufacturing its own beta-glucans. This fiber has to come from external sources like pasta and bread. Moreover, a human gut is not capable of digesting beta-glucans alone. Researchers said a bacteria in the human gut digests beta-glucans.

After the two-month feast, scientists from the University of Bari Aldo Moro in Italy studied the fecal and blood samples from the participants. They found high populations of 'good' bacteria called Lactobacilli and lower levels of 'bad' bacteria called Enterobacteriaceae. The samples revealed compounds and fatty acids with anti-inflammatory benefits and an average drop in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the bad kind, from 107.4 to 93.8 mg/dl.

"These results highlight the influence of fibers and of the Mediterranean diet on gut microbiota, and indirectly on human health," said Maria De Angelis from the University of Bari Aldo Moro, one of the study's co-authors. The Italian study debuted in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology journal.

Durum wheat has been around since 7000 BC. Discovered in Central Europe, protein-rich durum wheat is used in making pasta. Whole grain barley flour is a type of 'rough' flour. This roughness comes from lack of refinement in the process, which is believed to reduce the amount of barley itself and other essential nutrients.

With the development of beta-glucan-enriched processed foods, early prevention of diabetes is made stronger, especially for people who eat carbohydrates such as pasta and bread. Beta-glucan's ability to prevent absorption of bad cholesterol will benefit the older age groups whose diet consists mostly of carbohydrates.

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