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Is Gluten-free Wheat the Holy Grail of Grain Research? 05/04/2015 - Kansas farmers grow a lot of wheat. People with celiac disease avoid wheat like the plague. Not only are people with celiac disease avoiding wheat, but the vast majority of people who avoid wheat now do so for non-medical reasons.

Photo: CC--PaulWith celiac disease rates on the rise, and millions of non-celiacs now avoiding gluten for non-medical reasons, the gluten-free food industry is worth nearly a billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone.

This reality has wheat farmers and researchers scrambling to develop wheat strains and products that are safe for consumption by people who follow gluten-free diets.

If the The Kansas Wheat Commission has its way, people with and without celiac disease will eat gluten-free wheat in the future. The Commission is providing $200,000 in seed money to support a project intended to identify every component in wheat’s genetic sequence that might trigger adverse reactions in people with celiac disease.

The project is being led by researcher Chris Miller, senior director of research for Engrain, a Kansas company that makes products to enhance the nutrition and appearance of products made by the milling and cereal industry.

Understanding the causes of celiac disease and gluten intolerance is the goal of numerous researchers worldwide. Some researchers focus on human diagnosis and treatment, while others work on better understanding the 20 or so wheat protein fragments currently known to cause celiac reactions.

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But no research team has identified every component in wheat that contributes to adverse reactions in people with celiac disease. No researcher or team has yet bred a variety of wheat that is safe for celiac sufferers to eat.

Miller says his team hopes to be "one of the first to establish this comprehensive screening of reactive proteins in wheat." The research began in July at the Wheat Innovation Center in Manhattan, Kansas, and remains in its early stages, with researchers extracting proteins from various varieties of wheat in the Kansas wheat repository that dates back to the 1900s in hopes of finding a variety that might already be low in reactivity for celiac sufferers.

Later on, the team intends to combine the proteins with anti-gluten antibodies produced by the human immune system to test for immune reactions. Eventually, researchers hope to develop a gluten-free wheat using traditional breeding methods.

What do you think? Will they succeed? Would you eat products made from gluten-free wheat?

Read more at AP. welcomes your comments below (registration is NOT required).

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8 Responses:

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said this on
11 May 2015 7:34:49 AM PST
I think they are overestimating the willingness to take a chance on eating wheat that someone says is safe. For many celiacs, it took so long to reach a state of good health and there are so many good alternatives, why eat wheat?

Susan Hochstetter
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said this on
11 May 2015 9:52:27 AM PST
I am afraid that the breads made from this new wheat flour would taste badly like all the other gluten free breads. Why doesn't someone come up with a substance that makes it safe to eat? I would love try gluten free wheat bread!

Jared M
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said this on
11 May 2015 11:49:53 AM PST
Gluten is what makes wheat, barley, and rye unique over other grains. What's the point of creating gluten-free wheat that will still result in less-than-desirable bread texture and elasticity? I'd rather researchers find a way for me to eat glutenous food without wasting away.

John Baird
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said this on
11 May 2015 3:05:00 PM PST
A gluten free wheat would be no better than several flours that currently are gluten free, and still can't be made into decent breads without a product like Monsanto's Wellence (gluten substitute).

If a better grain is desired, my candidate would be the ancient grain, Fonio, which is gluten free; much more nutritious than wheat, and tastes much like wheat. Our USDA is very interested in Fonio, but it won't be grown here until there is a market for it, and there won't be a market for it until someone decides to grow it. (Catch 22). If McDonald's or other large chain would offer an optional Fonio bun, then the grain would begin to be grown and wheat would likely fall back.

C J Russell
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said this on
11 May 2015 4:05:32 PM PST
Of course I would! I'm also interested in more information about the grain John Baird (previous post) mentioned, Fonio. I have very picky taste buds. I don't like dry beans, peas, anything of the sort. Eating without wheat while avoiding 'yucky stuff' is very difficult. I'll try gluten free wheat, even if it doesn't make a decent yeast bread. I'm doing okay with soda breads and baking powder breads now. Yeast bread isn't an absolute necessity.

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said this on
11 May 2015 7:56:52 PM PST
There are already so many great grains that are gluten free. Why not spend money on something else? Why the obsession with selling wheat to the world?

Bruce Dana
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said this on
11 May 2015 8:32:13 PM PST
It's encouraging to know that these efforts are being made for the growing numbers of us who would like more alternatives to gluten free products.

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said this on
12 May 2015 6:15:04 AM PST
My diagnosing doctor, one of the most experienced with gluten matters, whose clinic is on Dr. O'Bryan's list of gluten sensitivity centers, says that for someone like me, who had undiagnosed celiac disease all his life, any part of wheat will have a Pavlov's dog effect on my immune system. Dr. O'Bryan says that gluten sensitive people cannot eat any ancient form of wheat. Remember that what we are reacting to as celiacs are a variety of peptides with a sequence of only 4 or 5 amino acids. Besides the two classes of proteins in wheat's two gluten types, there are five additional classes of proteins just discovered that celiacs react to.

It is known that GMO wheat has gotten out and contaminated the gene pool, as has GMO corn contaminating isolated fields in Mexico, where they are banned in that country. With tens of thousands of different gluten containing wheat strains in existence, you are extremely naive and delusional to think there could ever be a safe situation for a celiac to eat wheat.

Grains are cheep and addictive foods with large profit margins.There are trillions of dollars invested in wheat production equipment, and the rich corporations of the world are addicted to that gravy train. The myth of nutritional necessity for whole grains is completely fraudulent. Read the book "Death By Food Pyamid".

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