CLAYTON SOUTH, AUSTRALIA — A new “High Fibre Grains Cluster” research collaboration in Australia will focus on developing healthier varieties of wheat, barley and rice, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization (CSIRO) said Dec. 17. A primary research goal will be to boost the amount of beneficial compounds, such as beta glucans and arabinoxylans, that are contributors to the soluble component of dietary fiber in the various grains.

The collaboration involves CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship, the University of Adelaide, the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland. The cluster will invest more than A$7 million ($6.9 million) over three years with the university partners receiving more than A$3.4 million ($3.3 million) from the Flagship Collaboration Fund.

“Research has shown that the beta glucans and arabinoxylans found in soluble fiber block the re-absorption of cholesterol from the gut so more of this cholesterol is lost naturally from the body during the digestive process,” said Geoff Fincher, a professor at the University of Adelaide.

This action is believed to contribute to the protective effects of whole grains in lowering the risk of heart disease and stroke.

“Grains such as barley are good sources of soluble fiber, but levels are low in wheat and rice,” Dr. Fincher said. “The many health benefits that grains can bring have been proven. So the next step is to boost the amount of beneficial fiber in these grains, and this will be our focus over the next three years.”

Bruce Lee, director of the CSIRO’s Food Futures Flagship, said, “By bringing together scientists from the CSIRO and leading Australian research institutions, the High Fibre Grains Cluster will produce more significant outcomes far more rapidly than if we each tackled these problems on our own. This is world-leading and groundbreaking research in the area of grains and their impact on human health.”