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Are Shorter Rising Times for Bread Driving Higher Celiac Rates?
Celiac.com 02/23/2015 - There's an interesting article over at Mother Jones regarding the possible role that shorter rising times in most commercial bakeries might play in celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.
In the article, author Tom Philpott interviews Stephen Jones, a wheat breeder at Washington State University, who points out that bread rising times in commercial bakeries has been cut from hours or even days down to just minutes, through the use of fast-acting yeasts and additives.
What's more, Jones points out, commercial bakers add a lot of extra gluten to their products. Many supermarket sliced breads, especially whole-wheat breads include something called "vital wheat gluten" among the top four ingredients. Because whole-wheat flour has a lower gluten density than white flour, and to make the bread more soft and chewy, like white bread, commercial bakeries add extra gluten in the form of vital wheat gluten.
So bakers are using more gluten and fermenting very rapidly, compared with traditional fermentation techniques that take up to 12 hours and more. By contrast, the team in Jones' laboratory, located in a rural stretch along Puget Sound has found that the longer the bread rises, the more the gluten proteins are broken down in the finished bread.
It's certainly true that long fermentation reduces the amount of gluten in bread, and that long fermentation using strains of lactobacillus, as in many sourdough breads, breaks down even more of the gluten; in some cases, enough to be tolerated by people with celiac disease.
Celiac.com has written about this in several articles on the future of long-fermentation sourdough, its tolerability and gut healing potential in people with celiac disease.
However, Jones' notion that modern baking techniques, rather than modern wheat breeding techniques, are responsible for rising rates of celiac disease, and gluten-sensitivity remains unproven.
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Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams