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Modern Wheat Does NOT Have More Gluten than Ancient Wheat

Over the past centuries, the yield production of wheat has dramatically increased around the globe, leaving some to wonder how the quality and gluten content of modern wheat compares to ancient varieties. This research analyzed more than 200 wheat lines from the 18th century through modern times. The results showed that modern breeds of wheat tend to have slightly higher starch and fiber levels, and lower protein content as well as lower levels of some minerals (iron, zinc, magnesium). In fact, the decreased gliadin: glutenin ratio in modern wheat indicates a decrease in celiac disease antigens in modern wheat, while the lower protein content indicates lower levels of gluten.
Nutrition Bulletin. 2020 Sept. doi:10.1111/nbu.12461. (Shewry PR et al.)

 

19% of Flours at Supermarkets in Sydney are Whole Grain

Many dietary guidelines recommend that people make at least half their grains whole, yet little has been published on the availability of whole grain options at supermarkets. In a February 2020 audit of the flour aisle at four major supermarkets in metropolitan Sydney, researchers identified 130 different flour products. Of those, only 19% were whole grain flour. The majority of products were refined wheat flour. Not surprisingly, the whole grain flours contained significantly more fiber and protein.
Nutrients. 2020 Jul 10;12(7):2058. doi: 10.3390/nu12072058. (Hughes J et al.)

Less Processed Whole Grain Foods Linked with Better Blood Sugar Control in People with Diabetes

Replacing refined grains (like white bread or white rice) with whole grains (like whole grain bread or brown rice) is a simple swap that can yield measurable health benefits. But what if you are already eating whole grains and are ready to take the next step? In this study, researchers randomly assigned 63 adults in New Zealand with type 2 diabetes to a diet with either intact, minimally processed grain foods (whole oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread made with coarse whole grains) or more processed, finely milled whole grains (instant oats, brown rice pasta, whole grain bread made of finely milled flour). Those in the less processed group had a significantly lower post-meal blood sugar response and lower blood sugar variability throughout the day, indicating better blood sugar control.
Diabetes Care. 2020 May; dc200263. doi:10.2337/dc20-0263.(Åberg S et al.)

Whole Wheat Flour Has More Minerals, Antioxidants than Refined

Researchers analyzed 168 types of wheat flour purchased throughout the UK and Germany to compare their nutritional profiles. While spelt and organic wheat varieties had significantly higher levels of antioxidants and minerals than their conventional/modern counterparts, a far greater impact on nutrition was observed when comparing whole grain wheat to refined wheat. Whole grain wheat flours had 2-4.3x higher antioxidant concentrations and activity, 144% more phosphorous, 125% more potassium, and 209% more magnesium than refined wheat flours. The authors conclude that “refining (removal of the bran and germ) (a) has a substantially greater impact on the mineral nutrients and phytochemical concentrations in flour than wheat genetics/species choice (T. aestivum vs T. spelta) and production protocols (organic vs conventional), (b) diminishes the differences in antioxidant activity, and phenolic and mineral concentrations in wheat flour produced with grain from contrasting farming systems and wheat species.”
Food Chem X. 2020 May 4;6:100091. doi: 10.1016/j.fochx.2020.100091. (Wang J et al.)

Whole Grain Breads with Larger Particle Size / Less Processing Linked with Healthier Blood Sugar Control

In a small study, researchers assigned 15 people to four different types of 100% whole grain bread and measured their blood sugar responses (using iAUC, post-meal glucose, and 3-hour glucose). One bread was made with 100% stone ground flour, one was made with 100% roller milled flour, one was made with 50% roller milled flour and 50% cracked whole wheat, and one was made with 40% roller milled flour, 30% intact whole wheat, and 30% cracked whole wheat — although all breads were 100% whole grain. Among the roller milled breads, they found that the larger the particle sizes in the bread (intact whole wheat > cracked whole wheat > roller milled wheat), the gentler the impact on blood sugar. Interestingly, the blood sugar response of the stoneground bread (as measured by iAUC) was better than the 50% cracked wheat / 50% roller milled bread, but not quite as good as the 40% roller milled / 30% intact whole wheat / cracked whole wheat bread.
Diabetes Care. 2019 Nov 19. pii: dc191466. doi: 10.2337/dc19-1466. (Reynolds AN et al.)

Sourdough Fermentation Methods Improve Quality of Partially Whole Wheat Pasta

Swapping out some of the white flour for whole wheat flour in pasta is a simple way for manufacturers to bump up the nutritional quality of their products. But researchers wonder if different whole wheat pasta formulations might be better than others. In this study, researchers compared the nutritional and sensory (taste, acceptability, etc.) characteristics on two types of partially (28.5%) whole wheat fresh pasta: in one, the whole wheat flour was fermented (essentially a sourdough starter) and in the other, the whole wheat flour was not fermented. The fermented pasta showed a higher content of free essential amino acids and phenolic compounds, lower phytic acid content, and higher antioxidant activity. In consumer testing in a group of 54 people, the fermented pasta was rated higher for overall acceptability (taste, texture, and flavor). Interestingly, when people were told about the use of sourdough fermentation in the pasta, the acceptability ratings were even higher, reflective of the growing appetite for functional foods.
Foods. 2019 Sep 18;8(9). pii: E422. doi: 10.3390/foods8090422. (Fois S et al.)

Whole Wheat Promotes Resilience in Liver, Protects Against Higher Inflammation

Health not only implies being free of disease; health also takes into account how well we adapt to the stresses of everyday life, and the inevitable wear-and-tear on our bodies – in other words, resilience. To see how whole wheat might impact inflammation and resilience, 50 overweight and obese adults were randomly assigned to either 98 grams of whole wheat per day (from bread and cereal) or 98 grams of refined wheat per day for 12 weeks. Scientists then measured markers of inflammation and liver health and used modeling (the “health space” approach) to determine how resilient their bodies were to external stressors based on these findings. In this experiment, whole wheat was shown to protect against higher inflammation, and was also shown to promote resilience in the liver. 
Journal of Nutrition. 2019 Aug 27. pii: nxz177. doi: 10.1093/jn/nxz177. (Hoevenaars FPM et al.)

Avoiding Wheat Linked with Low Fiber, High Saturated Fat Intakes

Although wheat has been a staple crop for centuries, in recent years it has (unjustly) become a scapegoat by fad-dieters seeking a wheat-free or low-carb diet. In this study, researchers analyzed the diets of 30 people who reported avoiding wheat to see if this wheat-free diet impacted their nutrient intake. The wheat avoiders (many of whom happened to be avoiding dairy as well) consumed too little fiber and calcium, and too much saturated fat and total fat according to dietary recommendations. Interestingly, although 85% of the participants reported avoiding ALL wheat products, ⅓ of the participants reported eating a wheat-based food in their food record (mostly in the form of discretionary snacks/desserts).
Nutrition & Dietetics: The Journal of the Dietitians Association of Australia. 2019 Jul;76(3):305-312. doi: 10.1111/1747-0080.12521. (Golly S et al.)

Gluten-Free Diet Not Appropriate without Medical Diagnosis

Gluten is a compound found naturally in wheat, barley, and rye that helps dough stretch and bread rise. Many misguided dieters today choose to go gluten-free, even though only about 1% of the population has celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder where gluten must be avoided). In this review, researchers analyzed studies on the nutritional adequacy of gluten-free diets. They found that gluten-free diets tend to have less fiber, calcium, magnesium, zinc, vitamin B12, folate, and vitamin D, and tend to have more saturated fat and exposure to arsenic. The researchers note that “the majority of persons adopting a [gluten-free diet] have no medical basis for doing so,” and that “only persons with [celiac disease], [wheat allergy], or [non celiac gluten-sensitivity] should follow a [gluten-free diet], and they should do so under medical supervision.”
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019 Jul 1;2019:2438934. doi: 10.1155/2019/2438934. [Diez-Sampedro A et al.]

Sprouted Triticale May Benefit Blood Sugar Management

Whole grains contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and sprouting grains may make these compounds more available. In this study, researchers fed volunteers a meal of sprouted whole wheat, sprouted whole grain triticale, or sugar and compared how these foods affected the volunteers blood sugar and insulin levels. People who ate the sprouted triticale had lower levels of blood sugar and insulin than those who ate sugar; the volunteers who ate sprouted wheat had lower blood sugar than those who had just sugar, but there was no difference in insulin response. Both grains were associated with improved blood sugar control, however this effect was strongest in the sprouted triticale group. This study indicates that whole grain triticale may be especially beneficial to blood sugar management.
Journal of Nutrition and Metabolism. 2019 Jan 10;2019:6594896. doi: 10.1155/2019/6594896. (Meija et al.)

Switch to Whole Wheat for Better Liver Health

The liver is important for metabolism, so researchers wonder how substituting whole grains might impact liver health. To assess this relationship, 50 overweight middle-aged adults were randomly assigned to a diet with 5 servings of whole wheat foods per day or 5 servings of refined wheat foods per day for 12 weeks, and compliance was confirmed by measuring biomarkers of whole wheat intake (alkylresorcinol). The refined wheat diet significantly increased liver fat, indicating that it may contribute to the development of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. On the other hand, the whole wheat diet prevented an increase in liver fat, and better maintained liver health.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018 Dec 1;108(6):1264-1274. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/nqy204. (Schutte S et al.)

Strategies to Improve Sensory Qualities of Whole Wheat Asian Noodles

Noodles are a staple of Asian diets, yet many noodles on the market today are made with refined wheat flour, rather than whole grain flour. In this review, scientists share the best practices in making whole wheat Asian noodles (fresh, dried, and instant), and share where more research is needed. With the right techniques, replacing up to 20-72% of the refined white flour with whole wheat flour in Asian noodles can yield a high quality, more healthful product. Products with even higher quantities of whole grain can have even greater health impacts, although their quality may not be directly comparable. Selecting the right wheat variety for the recipe (such as a white whole wheat), milling to a finer particle size, adding complementary ingredients (such as tapioca or soy flour), or using ultrasound treatments to prolong shelf life, are all strategies that can be used to improve whole wheat Asian noodles.
Cereal Chemistry. 2018 Aug 23. doi: 10.1002/cche.10095 (Niu M et al.)

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