Sleuthing wheat intolerances

Published: 31-Jul-2018

Bread wheat is under fire

As a result, the market for gluten- and wheat-free alternatives has been growing continuously for years.

Now, though, more and more pro-modern wheat voices are campaigning for an image change. But, says grain expert GoodMills Innovation, it’ll take more than a black-and-white approach to make wheat popular again.

Mainstream science books such as “Wheat Belly” and “Grain Brain” state a strong cause-and-effect relationship between the high consumption rates of modern wheat in the developed world and an increase in a diverse variety of illnesses. The enlightened consumer has reacted accordingly and, in addition, many healthy people are choosing gluten-free products because they consider them to be a better and safer alternative.

The wheat discussion seems to have struck a chord with consumers. According to Euromonitor International, global sales of gluten-free products grew at a virtually explosive rate of 12.6% in 2016 — a third of which were baked goods — whereas the overall sales of packaged foods grew by 4%.

It is clear that these growth rates are disproportionate to the number of people who have actually been diagnosed with coeliac disease.

The number of consumers affected by malaise, bloating or wind after eating bread has been increasing for years. However, less than 1% of the Western population suffers from “real” gluten intolerance, so-called coeliac disease.1 Much more often, the symptoms are based on a reaction to other components in modern wheat.

Not guilty gluten

Claiming that digestive issues derived from the consumption of modern bread products is just a result of the current “anti-wheat” trend, but may actually affect 6–13% of the population.2,3

Wheat products can also cause considerable symptoms in people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or wheat sensitivity. But gluten is only partially responsible for these reactions.

“The fact that gluten-free baked goods are perceived as being more tolerable for those affected by wheat sensitivity is not necessarily because of the lack of gluten, it’s because of the so-called FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols).

Gluten-free breads based on oats, rice or corn, for example, also have a very low FODMAP content,” says nutritionist Sybille Kautz. So, do consumers forgo their beloved breakfast roll in vain? This is the question that GoodMills Innovation wants to answer and, as such, has investigated a compatible ancient crop: 2ab Wheat.

IBS and wheat sensitivity

It’s worth taking a closer look at the causes of gastrointestinal discomfort after eating wheat products: even though gluten has long been assumed to be the cause of all evil, it is rather a complex interplay of FODMAPs, ATIs (amylase trypsin inhibitors) and D-gluten.

FODMAPs are short chain carbohydrates such as fructose, lactose and sugar alcohols. Sybille Kautz notes: “These are found in bread wheat and spelt, as well as in many fruits and vegetables. However, in sensitive individuals, they can cause bacterial fermentation and, through their osmotic action, diarrhoea and abdominal pain.”

In a controlled crossover study conducted by the Monash University in Australia, a low-FODMAP diet resulted in a significant improvement in patients with irritable bowel syndrome.4 In the case of wheat sensitivity, ATIs also seems to play an important role — as proteins that can stimulate the immune cells in the gut to trigger inflammatory processes.

No matter which guilty party was accused of causing gastric distress following bread consumption, the general rule of thumb was “leave it out if it makes you sick”. As a result, consumers completely avoided wheat- or gluten-containing bakery products and learned to live with considerable disadvantages in terms of taste and texture — which were often unfounded.

The "new" ancient wheat

2ab Wheat is well-tolerated because of its genes: the genome of 2ab Wheat only contains the genetic coding for AA and BB gluten — hence the name. Thus, it naturally lacks the often less well-tolerated D-gluten contained in modern wheat varieties.

The FODMAP and ATI content is also significantly lower, even without long periods of dough processing. It’s interesting that ATIs actually protect the plant from herbivores and insects, which would explain why these proteins are found — to a greater extent than in most available ancient grains — in modern wheat varieties that have been bred for resistance and higher yields.

Two main differences make 2ab Wheat a “new” generation of ancient grain. It scores on the one hand in terms of compatibility, because although well-known varieties such as einkorn and emmer don't contain D-gluten, they do have high FODMAP values. On the other hand, 2ab bread convinces with a juicy crumb and a pleasant taste – with no additional modern wheat, gluten or other supplements.


  1. B. Lebwohl, J.F. Ludvigsson and P.H. Green, "Celiac Disease and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity," BMJ 351: doi: 10.1136/bmj.h4347 (2015).
  2. A. Sapone, et al., “Spectrum of Gluten-Related Disorders: Consensus on New Nomenclature and Classification,” BMC Med. 10: doi: 10.1186/1741-7015-10-13 (2012).
  3. I. Aziz, et al., “A UK Study Assessing the Population Prevalence of Self-Reported Gluten Sensitivity and Referral Characteristics to Secondary Care,” Eur. J. Gastroenterol. Hepatol. 26, 33–39 (2014).
  4. E.P. Halmos, et al., “A Diet Low in FODMAPs Reduces Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” Gastroenterology 146(1), 67–75 (2014).

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