Kamut pasta in different shapes

Is ancient wheat healthier than modern wheat? In some respects, it may be, according to three recent Italian studies that looked at inflammation, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes. 

In 2013, scientists at Careggi University Hospital in Florence decided to see if health markers changed when people switched between eating modern wheat and KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat. To do this, they conducted a randomized crossover study including three eight-week periods: one in which subjects with no prior clinical signs of cardiovascular disease ate their normal diet but with all grain products – bread, crackers, pasta and cookies – made with KAMUT® wheat, a washout period of eight weeks, and eight weeks in which all grain products were made with modern durum wheat and soft wheat.

The results? Following the KAMUT® wheat phase of the study, subjects’ total cholesterol decreased on average 4.0%, their LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased 7.8%, and certain markers of inflammation dropped 23 to 36%. At the same time, blood levels of potassium and magnesium – two key minerals many of us are lacking – rose 4.6% and 2.3% respectively. Following the modern wheat control phase, total cholesterol dropped 2.1% and LDL dropped 2.8%, while potassium and magnesium actually decreased slightly; the three inflammatory markers were mixed with one almost neutral, another dropping 14% and one increasing 15%.

These compelling results led the same group of researchers to use this study design in subsequent trials. In 2015, they looked at the effects of the same replacement diet on subjects with Acute Coronary Syndrome, a type of cardiovascular disease (CVD). And in 2016, they studied the effect of the replacement diet on the risk profile of subjects with type 2 diabetes.

The KAMUT® wheat phase of the 2015 CVD trial showed similar decreases in total cholesterol (6.8%) and LDL cholesterol (8.1%), and showed blood levels of potassium and magnesium both rising 2.3%. After the modern wheat control phase, the subjects’ total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol actually rose 3.0% and 1.7% respectively, and both potassium and magnesium levels fell slightly.

Similarly, the 2016 study with type 2 diabetes patients, showed reductions in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol following the KAMUT® wheat phase. Additionally, the subjects’ blood insulin levels fell 16.3%, their glucose levels decreased 9.1%. The researchers reported that, “No significant effect was noted after the consumption of the control diet.”

Loaf of sliced Kamut bread

Lab analysis of the KAMUT® wheat and control wheat showed that the two products looked fairly similar on paper with similar fiber levels and similar resistant starch levels (though with more potassium and magnesium in the KAMUT® wheat). And yet the health impacts were different, leading the researchers to conclude that, “Dietary fibre and resistant starch alone were clearly not instrumental in improving these metabolic parameters.” It’s what we’ve been saying all along here at the WGC: fiber and resistant starch are both great, but whole grain’s health benefits derive from a lot more than simply fiber.

Before we go any further, we should mention some of the limitations of these interesting studies. First of all, they were all very small studies – just 21 or 22 subjects each. Second of all, both the KAMUT® semolina and flour, and the control semolina and flour were semi-whole, not 100% whole. (Italians are new to the whole grain world; though KAMUT® wheat is very popular in Italy, researchers thought compliance would be better with foods more like everyday fare.) 

It’s also very important to note that wheat — like all grains and in fact all whole foods — is a growing, living thing. The same variety of wheat grown in two different locations, or in two different years, may have different levels of nutrients and different impacts on health — before we even begin comparing varieties. Think about it: although you can look up “apple” in a nutrient database and learn how much vitamin C or fiber is in “an apple” the values listed will not be the same for all varieties of apples, grown in all weather conditions, in all years. This is one factor that makes nutrition research so challenging.

Beyond these caveats, however, the studies were carefully designed. Both the KAMUT® wheat and the control wheat were ground at the same mill, and all grain products for the study were produced by the same artisan bakery and pasta maker. Subjects were given identical, controlled amounts of all grain products and instructed to eat no other grain products during the intervention and control periods; they did not know which grain they were consuming at any time.

We often see wild, unsubstantiated claims about the pros and cons of modern wheat vs. ancient varieties, but these are some of the first human clinical trials we’re aware of to explore this issue in a scientifically valid way. We hope to see even more, larger studies like this in the future.

Hats off to Kamut Enterprise of Europe, whose grants helped fund the independent research behind all three of these studies, and to WGC Member Kamut International, who provided us the journal articles to review. For more information about the story behind KAMUT® brand khorasan wheat, check out our blog post about the revival and growing popularity of this ancient grain. (Original blog post by Cynthia, updates by Caroline)



could it be that the change (more variety) had a positive influence on the Kamut consumers ? Interesting study

Alex -- Thanks for commenting. You've made a good point -- more variety in our diet is always a good thing and could have played a role. We always urge people to eat a variety of different whole grains,  along with a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and other healthy foods.


I just bought kamut grain to grind and looking forward to better bread. Never tried it before.

Good to see a bit of analysis of the study results instead of blanket regurgitation or biased reporting that is usually seen on the www. It's appreciated and saves me having to do it. Thanks :)


Thanks for the kind words. We just received a copy of the latest Kamut® study earlier this week, and hope to be reporting in the coming weeks with additional information to augment the first study you enjoyed so much. Stay tuned! 

What I in actual fact concern myself most about is health matters. On my own, I subscribe to journals oriented toward this subject, and I maintain educated about the most recent wellness lab analyses. Just how is this of any use? I feel there is no more significant focus for my energy. Likewise, this blog page seems as if it's well worth my time to read. I sift through 1000s or more of websites weekly. Truth be told, my back constantly is uncomfortable and I need a new spare time interest. lol Nevertheless, I believe if absolutely everyone published about their place in existence, and did it cogently, we'd have a more robust Earth.
In the trial, do you know if they were using the whole grain or a 'white kamut flour' which removes the bran and maybe the germ of the grain leaving only the endosperm. I ask as my understanding is the germ and bran contain a high proportion of the nutrition. Many thanks for your website.

As the fifth paragraph says, the Kamut was "semi-whole" -- some of the bran and germ remained, but not all of it. While in the U.S. we tend to have grains that are completely whole (all the bran, germ, and endosperm) or completely refined (just endosperm, no bran or germ), in Europe it's common to have different "extractions" that fall somewhere in the middle.

This may be more than you wanted to know, but here's what the Italian researchers told us when we asked. I hope this helps!

For the cardiovascular disease project published last January, they bought the following products:

- Semolina of Kamut and semolina of an italian durum wheat (semi-whole) for production of two types of pasta;

- Flour of Kamut and flour of an italian soft wheat (semi-whole) for production of biscuits, crackers, bread.

In the semi-whole wheat flour according to Italian standards the following is found:

- endosperm (100% - the entire endosperm);

- the entire germ (100%);

- the entire important aleurone layer (100%);

- of the 6 layers surrounding the seed, there are portions of the first two inner layers. The outer four layers are not present in semi-whole wheat flour (they are present in the whole wheat flour only).

According to Italian standards, per 100 Parts of dry substance, the flour type 2 (semi-whole) must have 0,95 of maximum ash, while the whole flour must have 1,40-1,60 of maximum ash.

In the certificate of analysis obtained from Molino Sima for the products utilized during the project, we have the following values for ash (related to 100 Parts of Dry Substance):

-    Semi-whole Semolina of Kamut: 1.10-1.20

-    Semi-whole Semolina of durum wheat: 1.10

-    Semi-whole Flour of Kamut: <1.05


is semolina healthy
Well, I am very impressed, its good article thanks for this post. I got very useful information from your blog, in this blog having more interesting articles and good thoughts they very help us, Sure it will be fantastic to everyone, and we love it
Hi, Does anyone have a no fail bread machine recipe using whole grain Kumut/Khorasan. Ive recently bought some Kamut grain :(20kg) to home mill instead of spelt. I have made a loaf to a basic Duram wheat recipe as well as a spelt recipe. one rose sightly more than the other but both were bricks in wieght and density. If anyone has some tips and tricks etc.
Hi Donna, I do not have a bread machine, so I don't know from experience. I recommend calling the King Arthur Baker's Hotline. They have been very helpful in answering all of my random baking questions over the years. (855) 371 2253. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
Bethany at Ingrained
Hello, As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist I highly recommend Kamut! I mill the grain to make delicious whole grain baked goods (I use 100% whole grain for it's excellent health benefits!) Donna, if you visit my food blog at www.aspoonfullofyum.com/whole-grain-hamburger-buns/ you will find a recipe for hamburger buns that I make using Kamut. It includes instructions for preparing the dough in a Zojirushi bread machine. You can also use this same recipe to make a loaf of bread. I have found that I like Kamut flour mixed with other flours for a traditional loaf bread, but use only Kamut flour when I am making buns, cinnamon rolls, etc. Here's to Wholesome! Bethany Thomson, RDN, LDN | www.ingrainedliving.com
Hi Bethany, That sounds delicious! Freshly-milled whole grains make the best tasting products, in our opinion! Thank you for your tips.
Hello I am glad I found this site. I have started making bread by the Lahey Bittman no knead method with rather good results. I have used bread flour ( King Arthur brand I believe), all purpose flour with spelt, 100& Khorasan, 100% spelt. My goal is to make bread from whole grains I liked the Khoresan best but don't know if it was whole or refined. Do you think I should look into a zojirushi bread machine? For health reasons and taste I would like to learn sourdough techniques Do you think that would lend itself to the no knead technique or the bread machine. Again my criteria are health, taste and (very important) texture. By the way I recall reading that Kamut is low in gluten. Any and all suggestions very welcome! Thanks
Hi Anne -- Glad to hear you're having great success with the no knead method and that you're experimenting with so many different flours. Many people find that bread machines are a great way of making delicious breads. I'm not familiar with bread machines myself, so I can't recommend one method over the other, but you might try calling the King Arthur Baker's Hotline for more advice from baking experts. (855) 371 2253. http://www.kingarthurflour.com/bakers-hotline/
Renee Jacobson
The protein banding of khorasan wheat, Triticum turgidum, is likely significantly different form semolina, T. durum, or hard red wheat, T. aestivum. This may lead to many of the health benefits in using khorasan wheat, T. turgidum, in leu of T. aestivum or T. durum. As for the nutrient change, what is the difference in the content of potassium or magnesium in the grains themselves. Is it the content of these two minerals in the grains that accounts for the change in blood levels or is it something within the grains makeup that helps with retention of these minerals in the blood stream? I look forward to more study information both on the actual differences for the grains from each other as well as larger human studies on the rains themselves. In addition, a comparison with older tall grass varieties of T. aestivum will be of great interest.
Hi Renee-- You have some great questions and we, like you, look forward to seeing more studies that help illuminate those answers. To answer your question about the potassium and magnesium levels in khorasan wheat compared with durum wheat, I took a look at the USDA's Nutrient Database (https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list). According to the USDA data, khorasan wheat has 403mg potassium and 130mg magnesium per 100g. The entry for durum wheat says it has 431mg potassium and 144mg magnesium per 100g, so very similar (though slightly higher) values. So it is especially interesting that khorasan wheat appears to contribute to higher blood-levels of potassium and magnesium than durum wheat does. We look forward to learning more about the mechanisms behind these observations as more research is conducted and published.

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