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Bran is the hard outer layer of cereal grains, and consists of combined aleurone and pericarp. When bran is removed from grains, they lose a portion of their nutritional value. Bran is present in and may be milled from any cereal grain, including rice, wheat, maize, oats, and millet.
Rice bran is a by-product of the rice milling industry from which rice bran oil is extracted. Typically rice bran accounts for 7 –8 % of the rice produced and the recovery of rice bran oil from rice bran is usually 15%.
Rice bran oil is used for human consumption. Anti-oxidants of Vitamin E group are naturally occurring in rice bran oil. Appearance of rice bran oil ranges from cloudy to clear depending on the degree of dewaxing and winterization process applied. It also has several industrial uses. After oil extraction, the by-product obtained is de-oiled rice bran.
Bran oil may be also extracted for use by itself for industrial purposes (such as in the paint industry), or as a cooking oil, such as rice bran oil.
Global production of rice bran oil fluctuates between 10 - 14 lakh tons depending on rice production.
Rice Bran Oil is extensively used in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Thailand as 'Premium Edible Oil'. India, China, Japan and Myanmar are important producers of rice bran oil constituting more than 95 % of global production.
India is the largest importer of rice bran oil followed by Japan.
Bran is particularly rich in dietary fiber, and contains significant quantities of starch, protein, fat, vitamins, and dietary minerals. Oat bran, alone or as a part of oatmeal, has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when part of an overall diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and the United States Food and Drug Administration now allows manufacturers to make specific health claims to that effect on food packaging. Wheat bran miller's bran is very effective in treating constipation.
Bran is often used to enrich breads (notably muffins) and breakfast cereals, especially for the benefit of those wishing to increase their intake of dietary fiber. Eating foods rich in bran became somewhat of a health craze in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with massive promotion of bran cereals and granola.
In the late 1980s, there was the "oat bran craze," with oat products in all shapes and sizes flooding the market (including potato chips with oat bran added), claiming to lower blood cholesterol and fight heart disease. This craze peaked in 1989 and was short-lived, as studies in the early 1990s showed that oat bran only modestly reduced cholesterol.
However, in January 1997, the Food and Drug Administration decided (with some controversy) that food with a lot of oat bran or rolled oats can carry a label claiming it may reduce the risk of heart disease, when combined with a low-fat diet. As of 2005, this fact still appears on many oatmeal packages.