The Bran Layer

The bran layer is the outer thick-walled structure of the grain. It is rich in B vitamins and phytonutrients such as flavonoids and indoles plus a small amount of protein. It also contains antioxidant compounds including phytoestrogens such as lignans and isofla-vones. These hormonally active compounds, similar to estrogen, may influence sex hormone metabolism and may impact on hormone-related disease. The bran also contains factors that may decrease bioa-vailability of nutrients such as phytic acid, tannins, and enzyme inhibitors. It is also where the bulk of insoluble fiber is found. The insoluble fiber contained within the bran layer has long been recognized to play an important role in intestinal health, by optimizing bowel transit time and increasing fecal weight. But some of the health benefits associated with a high-fiber diet may come from other

components, and not just from the fiber itself. For example, the oligosaccharides found within the starchy endosperm layer behave in a similar manner to soluble nonstarch polysaccharides (NSP) and may therefore be useful in controlling blood lipid profiles and blood glucose. In addition, oligosac-charides are natural prebiotics, which encourage the proliferation of healthy microflora within the gut. Colonization of specific bacteria within the colon, such as bifidobacteria, has been implicated in benefits to the immune system, cholesterol lowering, and reducing the risk of colon cancer through the fermentation of these carbohydrates into short-chain fatty acids.

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