Today's wheat no worse for allergies

Monday, 01 July, 2019

Today's wheat no worse for allergies

Research conducted at Charles Sturt University (CSU) has shown that, despite popular belief, early varieties of wheat were no less allergenic than the varieties grown in Australia today.

Through the Australian Research Council (ARC) Industrial Transformation Centre for Functional Grains (FGC), CSU PhD candidate Chris Florides has investigated 170 varieties of wheat dating back to 1860.

“Wheat allergies or gluten intolerance has become a key talking point, not only for people who have diagnosed allergies or consumers who eat gluten-free, but also for wheat breeders and food processors,” Florides said.

“If you search the internet or social media, there’s a lot of speculation that early wheat varieties were not immunogenic and that modern genetic techniques have created wheat varieties that are more allergenic.

“My research examined the allergenicity of wheat varieties grown in Australia from 1860 to 2015, including some original varieties brought from England that were bred to suit Australian conditions.

Using a diagnostic method, Florides has created databases detailing the allergenicity of the different wheat varieties.

“I found there is variation in the levels of allergenicity and it’s hoped varieties with a low content of immunoreactive proteins can now be used in wheat breeding programs and the ones with high content avoided,” Florides said.

“It is not possible to develop completely non-allergenic wheat because the gluten proteins, which are responsible for the immunogenic effects of bread and other wheat products, are necessary for the functionality of the flour used to make these products.”

Florides hopes that his research will lead to the development of low-allergenic wheat varieties.

FGC Director Professor Chris Blanchard said, “This is an example of the research at the Functional Grains Centre that’s responding to the interest that consumers have regarding the impact of food on their health.

“Ultimately, developing products to meet consumer demands will benefit the entire grains value chain.”

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