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Have Wheat and Gluten Changed Over Time?

An industry-driven study looks to find out if wheat has changed over time.


Photo: CC--Fimb

Celiac.com 02/24/2017 - Have wheat and gluten changed over time? Is the wheat we consume today substantially different to the wheat we ate fifty or one-hundred years ago? These are interesting questions that have invited a good deal of speculation, but so far, at least, no good answers.

Dr. Chris Miller, a former faculty member at Kansas State University in Grain Science and Industry, now the director of wheat quality research at Heartland Plant Innovations, is working on a project that could allow people with celiac disease to safely consume wheat. As part of that project, Dr. Miller is studying different wheat varieties from the Kansas State University breeding program.

So far, he has examined 50 Hard Red Winter wheat lines, which include current commercial varieties, older varieties once common, but rarely planted today, and wild relatives of wheat.

"With these different varieties we can get a broad understanding of how genetics change over time, or if they have changed through our breeding selection," Miller says.

Miller and his colleagues started by characterizing the varieties' traits from the field all the way through their protein characterization, their genetic makeup (which involves the plants' genotypes), end-product testing (which examines the plants' milling and baking qualities), and health and nutrition attributes.

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Eventually, they hope to have good data on all of the wheat varieties in the study. This is exploratory research, says Aaron Harries, Vice President of Research and Operations at Kansas Wheat, "We're not sure what we are going to find."

They hope their preliminary research data will help them toward their main goal of helping people with celiac disease be able to consume wheat products without any digestion problems.

"This is a study that's focused for the good of all human health. We're doing research here that they aren't doing anywhere else," Jordan Hildebrand, program assistant at Kansas Wheat, said. "The fact that Kansas wheat farmers took the initiative to fund the research showed their foresight and their desire to deliver a wholesome product for everyone who wants to have their bread and eat it too."

Stay tuned for developments on this and related stories.

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4 Responses:

 
Ryan Michaels
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said this on
27 Feb 2017 10:52:39 PM PDT
It is always wonderful news to me when I read articles on wheat gluten stating that research continues on behalf of all of us who suffer in multiple ways due to this gluten. A deep and sincere thank you to all the truly concerned scientist who are working on this matter and thank you again to the farmers who have donated their finances to this cause. Perhaps a fund should be set up for all concerned people on this matter to donate toward this cause.

 
MM_AK
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said this on
28 Feb 2017 12:34:32 AM PDT
Good but brief article. I'm a crop scientist and ecologist with celiac. I still drool a little at the smell of good Italian sourdough... Yes, they will be finding a difference relative to the time of development of varieties and hybrids, all the way from the old world to current. We'll wait and see. But I've been preaching this for some time now; that the sheer volume production and the genetics its taken to get there and what plant breeders have striven for has exponentially increase the gluten contained in these beautiful small grains.

 
Laura
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said this on
28 Feb 2017 11:43:17 AM PDT
I read an article by a chemist who analyzed the a variety of 2009 hybrid wheat and compared it to a 1960's version. The findings: gluten content ration was 17:1. I explain it as follows: A person would have to consume 102 slices of the 1960's bread to receive the gluten equivalent of 6 slices of today's wheat. I no longer wonder why ICD-10 diagnostic codes are updated to reflect both celiac disease and non-celiac sensitivity conditions. I first heard of the term "gluten" in 2009. Now, most everyone in the U.S. has a friend or relative with gluten related disabilities.

 
Janis
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said this on
28 Feb 2017 4:31:50 PM PDT
I have been diagnosed with celiac disease and I'm extremely sensitive; the slightest cross contamination will "poison" me for a week or two. HOWEVER, I ate the thin crust pizza in Florence, Italy three days in a row and had no reaction whatsoever (the pizza was worthy, so I went for it). The research team in this article may want to explore the nature of the Florence thin pizza to see if it helps their theory. This was more than 10 years ago, however.




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