Researchers are to test a theory that ancient cereal varieties of the Vikings may have reduced the risk of heart attacks.
Nutrition experts at Aberdeen University, working with The Agronomy Institute in Orkney, want to prove that ancient varieties were more beneficial to human health than modern crops grown elsewhere in the UK.
The health benefits of whole grain oats and barley are already well known, containing the carbohydrate beta-glucan which lowers cholesterol. The theory is that the northern, colder temperatures in addition boost the level of cholesterol–lowering lipids which play a crucial role in preventing heart disease.
Unsaturated lipids lower the levels of bad cholesterol. They become saturated or unsaturated during the growth cycle, depending on the conditions in which they grow. The further north, the greater the lipid content in the grains. And the colder the temperatures, the more unsaturated lipids are formed. Too far north and cereals will not grow at all.
Dr Karen Scott's study will investigate whether specific varieties, in certain growing conditions, really can maximise the health benefits found of these ancient crops. The study will examine the Viking's Bere.
For several years Bruichladdich has been distilling Bere grown both on Orkney and Islay. The first bottling of Bruichladdich Bere will be later in 2012.