Not everyone loves wheat - so why not remove the bad bits

Harvey Millar @CatchNews | First published: 22 November 2016, 18:44 IST
Not everyone loves wheat - so why not remove the bad bits

Wheat is everywhere. It's in bread, pasta, pastries, biscuits, pizza, batter, cereals, soups, sauces, instant drinks, salad dressing, processed meats and sweets, to name but a few.

The western diet is so infatuated with wheat that most of us eat a kilo or more a week. So why do we love it?

It's simple. It provides the texture of our pasta, the spring in our bread, the thickening in our soups and sauces, and the crunch in our batter and pastries.

But what some of us crave, others look to avoid. They study ingredients on packaging and travel across town to find processed foods that don't contain wheat. While they may enjoy the texture, spring, thickness and crunch, they don't feel well after they eat wheat.

So what's the problem?

An intolerance

Some have a sensitivity to a small set of wheat proteins called gluten. For a subset of people their reaction is so extreme it's defined as coeliac disease.

But most people who avoid wheat are not intolerant to gluten but rather to some other substance in wheat. Scientists agree this is likely to be other proteins found in the wheat grain, but it is typically unknown what the culprit is in each case.

This is a frustrating mystery for wheat sensitivity sufferers which hangs over their café breakfasts, luncheons with friends and social dinner parties.

The full set of proteins that make up wheat grains has only recently been revealed, with details published last month in The Plant Journal. These proteins make up the wheat proteome and have been exhaustively mapped out for the first time in wheat by research conducted here in Australia.

With this discovery we now know that, beyond gluten, thousands of different proteins can be found in wheat grain. Some of them we didn't even know existed before this research was undertaken.

We know when they are made during grain development and we know if they are also found in other parts of the wheat plant such as the leaves, stems and roots. Each of these long wheat grain proteins are digested in our gut to become short peptides.

That means there are hundreds of thousands of different peptides that can be derived from wheat. Most are harmless and good nutrition but for some people, a set of them will make us unwell.

Single out the proteins

 
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