Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Tibet and its “Nas” Barley

Tibetan barley (Hordeum vulgare L., qingke) is the principal cereal cultivated on the Tibetan Plateau for at least 3,500 years. Tibetan call it “nas”, Chinese say “qingke” and researchers use THB (Tibetan hull-less barley), for this six-rowed hulless (or naked) barley that has been used as a major staple food of Tibetans for generations. The crop is cold- and drought-tolerant and can be cultivated at high altitudes; THB is the only crop that can be grown at >4200 m in the Tibetan Plateau.

Traditional Tibetan food consist mainly barley, meat and dairy products. Tsampa is the staple food of Tibetan people, which is consumed daily. It is actually barley flour made from parched barley, unhusked and ground into fine flour. Barley wine called “Qiang” in Tibetan, is a light wine made from barley grown on the highlands.

THB has received considerable attention due to its health benefits; studies strongly support the idea that increasing the consumption of whole-THB might be a useful dietary approach to lowering the risk of developing metabolic syndrome (MS) such as abdominal obesity, insulin resistance, impaired glucose tolerance, diabetes and hypertension etc.

THB is considered to be highly nutritive because of high content of soluble fibre beta-glucan (approximately 8.62%; highest amongst barley’s) and antioxidants. Epidemiological studies have reported a lower prevalence of hyperlipidemia and diabetes with the consumption of THB. In a randomized double-blind trial, it is reported that the dietary intake of W-THB significantly reduced plasma cholesterol concentrations, serum triglyceride levels, and body weight in 227 dyslipidemic patients. Similarly, an independent study reported that W-THB significantly decreased postprandial blood glucose and insulin levels in healthy adults.

1. Gou A.C., et. al. Discussion on the importance of highland barley production from Tibetan compatriot the food construction variety. Chin. Agric. Sci. Bull. 2005;21:142-145.
2. Xiong M., Effect of Tibetan hull-less barley on plasma lipid and body weight in dyslipidaemia patients. Med. Sci. Technol. 2005;5:45.
3. Li Z., The influence of taking naked oat fruit on glycometabolism of healty adults. J. Qinghai Med. Coll. 2009;30:46–50.


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