Bakers Journal

New data counters critics’ claims that wheat has changed

October 29, 2015
By Laura Aiken

Winnipeg – New research published in the peer reviewed journal Cereal Chemistry, and additional results presented at the spring Canadian Nutrition Society annual meeting, shows that the nutritional composition of modern wheat is similar to wheat grown in Canada 150 years ago.

The discovery casts doubt on critics of wheat who claim the protein composition of the grain, which includes gluten, has been fundamentally altered by the agriculture industry. The research shows that while the increase in grain yields over the past century has been significant, the increases in the total grain protein concentration, including gluten, in wheat grain, has been very modest (~1%).  Hence, the overall nutritional quality and composition of wheat grain over time has seen little change.

Dr. Ravindra Chibbar and Dr. Pierre Hucl of the University of Saskatchewan led the research. These researchers took seeds from 37 varieties of wheat representing grain from each decade from the 1860s onwards, grew the wheat and compared the nutritional composition against modern Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) varieties in field trials over 2013 and 2014. The research team analyzed the concentration of starches and proteins including gluten. What they found is that wheat grain today has a very similar nutritional composition to wheat grown more than 150 years ago.

“Our results substantiate that the wheat grown by Canadian farmers today is nutritionally similar to wheat grown in 1860,” said Chibbar in a news release. “There is no evidence to suggest that the increased incidences of obesity, diabetes or other health conditions in today’s society are related to the wheat varieties developed during the recent decades as claimed by some critics.”

CWRS wheat makes up the majority of all wheat grown in Canada. Wheat contains both carbohydrates and protein and is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals. It has been a staple and essential part of the human diet for thousands of years, and because of the unique properties of its gluten protein, is used in countless ways to make breads, pastas and a variety of other foods.

The University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and the Canada Research Chairs program funded the research.

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