Health & Wellbeing

High-amylose wheat packs 10 times the fiber

High-amylose wheat packs 10 ti...
Conventional wheat like this has far less dietary fiber than the high-amylose wheat
Conventional wheat like this has far less dietary fiber than the high-amylose wheat
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Dr. Ahmed Regina with some of the high-fiber grain
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Dr. Ahmed Regina with some of the high-fiber grain
Conventional wheat like this has far less dietary fiber than the high-amylose wheat
2/2
Conventional wheat like this has far less dietary fiber than the high-amylose wheat

It's no surprise to hear that many people who consume a typical wheat-based Western diet don't get enough fiber. They could, of course, change their eating habits, but now they may not have to. Scientists from Australia's CSIRO research center have developed a new type of wheat that has 10 times the amount of fiber as its normal counterpart.

The project started in 2006, as a collaboration between CSIRO, French company Limagrain Céréales Ingrédients, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation. The researchers initially identified two enzymes that when reduced in wheat, increase the amount of a polysaccharide known as amylose.

"From there, we used a conventional breeding approach, not GM techniques, and managed to increase the amylose content of wheat grain from around 20 or 30 per cent to an unprecedented 85 per cent," says CSIRO's Dr. Ahmed Regina. "This was sufficient to increase the level of resistant starch [a type of dietary fiber] to more than 20 per cent of total starch in the grain compared to less than one per cent in regular wheat."

Regina adds that resistant starch, which is largely lacking in Western diets, improves digestive health, protects against the genetic damage that precedes bowel cancer, and helps combat Type 2 diabetes.

Dr. Ahmed Regina with some of the high-fiber grain
Dr. Ahmed Regina with some of the high-fiber grain

Spinoff company Arista Cereal Technologies is now marketing the technology, and has licensed it to US-based Bay State Milling Company. That company in turn contracted farmers in Idaho, Oregon and Washington to grow about 400 hectares (988 acres) of the wheat, which will be marketed as HealthSense high fiber wheat flour.

In Australia, Arista has partnered with an agricultural company to develop high-amylose wheat varieties suitable for different regions.

"Wheat is the most popular source of dietary fibre and eaten by 30 per cent of the world's population," says Regina. "Having a wheat with high levels of resistant starch enables people to get this important fibre without changing the type of grain they eat or the amount of grain-based foods they need for recommended dietary levels."

Source: CSIRO

2 comments
steve862
Ben, Good article about an interesting technology. I would only like to make the point that your comment that it is "not GM" is kind of misleading. This wheat cultivar has been rather dramatically "Genetically Modified" but just not in ways where you know exactly which genes are involved. Wheat is "hexaploid" meaning it has 6 versions of every chromosome vs the 2 that "diploids" like humans have. That just means that any sort of "conventional breeding" is doing some serious mix and match with chromosomes and the genes on them. There is no way that this new wheat does not also involve some genetic changes that have nothing to do with the desired resistant starch trait. There is an extremely low probability that there is any unintended effect here, but honestly that probability is higher than an unintended effect of a transgenic "GM" trait where someone altered a known gene. Sort of a small point, but you don't get to a wheat this different without "genetic modification"
StWils
It would be handy if the authors could track down and report about other relevant research opportunities. As an example, Quinoa is a grain hybridized to provide all but one of the essential amino acids we require. Unfortunately this plant has a relatively narrow set of cultivational needs. The same is true about Coffea Arabica and Caccao beans. These useful crops and many others have fairly demanding environmental boundaries and needs. Coffea Robusto produces lots of low quality "cherries" while Arabica produces a modest quantity of good to great "cherries" but only when conditions are ideal. It would better for us all if a hybrid of Robusto & Arabica could meet in the middle and have more environmental flexibility while still producing great coffee. There are something like 40 plants in the Coffea family including several that grow well in North America as ornamental plants. As climate change continues to screw with food production practical efforts need to be made to get ahead of both population growth and environmental change.