A Grounded Guide to Gluten: How Modern Genotypes and Processing Impact Wheat Sensitivity
Kucek et al. 2015
The role of wheat, and particularly of gluten protein, in our diet has recently been scrutinized. A grain of wheat is mostly composed of carbohydrates, proteins, lipids, and minerals. While these components can provide basic dietary sustenance for most people, consuming wheat causes negative responses in a small subset of the population. This article provides a summary of the main pathologies related to wheat in the human body, including celiac disease, wheat allergy, nonceliac wheat sensitivity, fructosemalabsorption, and irritable bowel syndrome.
The most commonly implicated compounds are wheat proteins and fructans. These compounds tend to have structures that are difficult for digestion to break apart. Especially for individuals with fructose malabsorption, NCWS, or IBS, consumption of fructans is not recommended due to potential aggravation of symptoms. Given that all fructan types are predominantly composed of fructose, fructan will be digested to fructose and likely aggravate symptoms in fructose-intolerant individuals. Besides, particularly short chain length fructans induce symptoms, because they have a greater osmotic effect and are more rapidly fermented than fructans with higher degrees of polymerization.
Furthermore, differences in reactivity are discussed for ancient, heritage, and modern wheats. Due to large variability among species and genotypes, it might be feasible to select wheat varieties with lower amounts and fewer types of reactive prolamins and fructans. Einkorn, for example, is promising for producing fewer immunotoxic effects in a number of celiac research studies. Nevertheless, it is not proved that the introduction of modern wheat varieties fully explains the rise in wheat sensitivity over the last 50 years. To understand how modern wheat breeding has impacted wheat sensitivity, a broader array of modern and heritage genotypes must be screened.
Additionally, the impact of wheat processing methods on wheat sensitivity is reviewed. Research indicates that germination and fermentation technologies can effectively alter certain immunoreactive components. In seeking wheat products with less immunoreactivity, consumers would most benefit from products made with germinated grain, and to a lesser extent from fermented products. Although, no epidemiological studies have evaluated the impact of wheat processing on the prevalence in wheat sensitivity, increases in disease diagnoses correlate with food industry uses of compounds that can trigger sensitivity, such as gluten, inulin, and high fructose corn syrup. Furthermore, modern baking practices used over the last century have focused on short, unleavened fermentation techniques. Also further research is needed to determine how modern wheat processing has influenced epidemiology, the authors stated that modern wheat processing techniques may have increased consumer exposure to immunoreactive compounds.