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The challenge

Reducing the incidence of chronic disease through improved diet

Chronic diseases are a heavy burden on Australia's economy and well-being. Obesity, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and cancer are the leading causes of preventable death. Obesity alone cost Australian society and governments over $8.6 billion in 2011-12, while in 2005 the cost of diabetes was $10.6 billion.

Australia needs practical, effective diet and lifestyle solutions that can help reduce the burden of these chronic diseases. Increased wholegrain intake has been shown to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and even help with weight control.

CSIRO scientists have seen the potential to enhance the nutritional value of wholegrains, like barley, to help combat these health problems.

Our response

BARLEYmax: the grain that is better for you

CSIRO has long been interested in barley as a grain with human health benefits. One particular barley grain emerged from research as having higher fibre content and enhanced nutritional benefits compared with regular barley. A program of conventional plant breeding led to the development of BARLEYmax™, a high fibre wholegrain with high levels of resistant starch.

BARLEYmax is high in fibre, particularly resistant starch.

An extensive program of experimental studies, including a number of human trials, showed that a range of foods produced with BARLEYmax™ as their key ingredient had a low glycemic index and also produced positive changes in a range of biomarkers of bowel health.

In a joint venture with Australian Capital Ventures Ltd, CSIRO bred the new BARLEYmax™ grain, then worked with food manufacturers to create products containing BARLEYmax™, including breakfast cereals, muesli bars, food wraps, rice mixes and bread. Consumers in Australia have been able to enjoy the benefits of foods containing BARLEYmax™ since August 2009 and there are now BARLEYmax products for sale in Japan, the USA, Singapore and Malaysia.

See: Our better for you BARLEYmax™ goes global.

BARLEYmax™ is now licensed to a CSIRO spin-off company, The Healthy Grain.

The results

Better health for Australians, greater benefits for farmers

The potential value of improved health outcomes for Australians from widespread, regular consumption of BARLEYmax™ is estimated to be worth approximately $305 million per year due to its potential for lowering rates of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

In addition, the total savings in health system costs from increased dietary fibre intake are forecast at up to $17 million per year. BARLEYmax™ also benefits grain growers, through additional earnings from guaranteed prices for barley and diversification of farm business models.

[Music plays CSIRO logo and text appears: We asked CSIRO]

[Image changes to outside Popina Food Services building. Then inside to someone operating a forklift and muesli bars being made]

[Image changes to Arnold May, Popina Foods]

Arnold May: Our core business has always been in food manufacture, primarily muesli based breakfast cereals and more recently over about the last ten years we've been making muesli bars.

[Image of different muesli based food products on shelves appear on screen]

We'd heard about a new grain that CSIRO had developed over many years called BARELYmax through their Food Futures program.

BARLEYmax is a grain that has been developed through non-genetic means by CSIRO, it has got the highest fibre of any grain that's on the market and it has a very particular type of fibre and that's called resistant starch, which CSIRO scientists and other scientists around the world are now discovering has got enormous benefits for our digestive health.

[Image changes to show the factory production line in action and then zooms in on the completed products]

We asked CSIRO to more or less authenticate the type of products that we were making in terms of the health that we were offering our consumers and they've been able to do that.

[Image changes to the camera panning in on different areas of the factory and then back to Arnold]

The relationship has been a good one with CSIRO. [Image changes to show the muesli bars being moved along another part of the production line and then back to Arnold]

Through the CSIRO brand and their name, which is a very recognised brand in Australia, we believe that it's helped us, our brand enormously, we're a stronger business now and I have had a very good overall relationship with CSIRO and very happy to have worked with them and hopefully we'll continue to work very successfully with them into the future.

[Music plays and CSIRO logo appears with the text: Big ideas start here]

Arnold May from Popina Foods explains how he's bringing BARLEYmax grain to your table.

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