Many people claim to feel better when avoiding bread and other products containing gluten. Plant Research joins a large-scale study to figure out what is going on.
For several years now, bread had been the target of a lot of commotion, and gluten is seen as the main malefactor. ‘Many people have switched to a gluten-free diet and claim that they have tremendously revived since’, says Luud Gilissen of Wageningen Plant Research, who is involved in setting up the project. ‘We want to know whether this is realistic. The striking thing is that that the claim is mainly made by women with a higher education between 25 and 55 years of age.’
Besides, Gilissen suspects the complaints are not caused by gluten, but by other substances contained in bread. ‘We think that other proteins as well as fermentable disaccharides and oligosaccharides might be involved. Those sugars are not efficiently absorbed by the body, but are instead digested by bacteria in the large intestines. In some people, this can lead to a bloated feeling or cause diarrhoea.’
Together with Maastricht University, Plant Research will be studying what the exact link is between the various substances in bread and certain health issues. In Wageningen, Twan America will lead the research into these constituents, while in Maastricht, an intervention study will be set up with 90 patients with irritable bowel syndrome as well as healthy volunteers.
The other initiators of the study are the Nederlands Bakkerij Centrum (‘Dutch Bakery Centre’) in Wageningen and Rothamsted Research in England. Fred Brouns, Emeritus Professor in Healthy Food at Maastricht University, is leading the project. The researchers want to examine three kinds of cereals: modern bread wheat, spelt and emmer, an older type of wheat. Additionally, they will compare two ways of baking bread: a quick preparation with yeast and a slower one with sourdough.
According to Gilissen, the breads will be made by the Nederlands Bakkerij Centrum. ‘They are currently searching for the best way to bake the breads, so that they do not differ in shape and taste, to prevent the subjects from knowing which kind of bread they are eating.’ The entire study will cost around 1.5 million euros. This money is mainly raised by companies from the bakery and cereals sectors. In the Netherlands, these include Zeelandia, DSM Food Specialties and Sonneveld Group.
International organisations, such as the CIMMYT in Mexico, which performs research on wheat and maize, also help in funding the study. The Top sectors in the Netherlands have to contribute 300,000 euros. Gilissen has a good feeling about the chances of this request being honoured. He is also trying to finalise extra financing for experiments on the cultivation of bread cereals by Wageningen Plant Research. These experiments would make a comparison between biological and common culture.