WINNIPEG, MANITOBA (MAY 29, 2021) – New research published in the peer reviewed journal Cereal Chemistry and additional results presented at the Canadian Nutrition Society annual meeting (May 28 – 30, 2015) in Winnipeg, Manitoba shows that the nutritional composition of modern wheat is similar to wheat grown in Canada 150 years ago.

The discovery casts doubt on critics of wheat who claim the protein composition of the grain, which includes gluten, has been fundamentally altered by the agriculture industry. The research shows that while the increase in grain yields over the past century has been significant, the increases in the total grain protein concentration, including gluten, in wheat grain, has been very modest (~1%).  Hence, the overall nutritional quality and composition of wheat grain over time has seen little change.

The research was led by Dr. Ravindra Chibbar and Dr. Pierre Hucl at the University of Saskatchewan. These researchers took seeds from 37 varieties of wheat representing grain from each decade from the 1860s onwards, grew the wheat and compared the nutritional composition against modern Canada Western Red Spring (CWRS) varieties in field trials over 2013 and 2014. The research team analyzed the concentration of starches and proteins including gluten. What they found is that wheat grain today has a very similar nutritional composition to wheat grown more than 150 years ago.

“Our results substantiate that the wheat grown by Canadian farmers today is nutritionally similar to wheat grown in 1860,” says Dr. Chibbar. “There is no evidence to suggest that the increased incidences of obesity, diabetes or other health conditions in today’s society are related to the wheat varieties developed during the recent decades as claimed by some critics.”

CWRS wheat makes up the majority of all wheat grown in Canada. Wheat contains both carbohydrates and protein and is rich in a number of vitamins and minerals, dietary fibre, anti-oxidants and phytochemicals. It has been a staple and essential part of the human diet for thousands of years, and because of the unique properties of its gluten protein, is used in countless ways to make breads, pastas and a variety of other foods.

The University of Saskatchewan, Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture and Food, Saskatchewan Wheat Pool and the Canada Research Chairs program funded the research.

Dr. Ravindra Chibbar, Ph.D.

Dr. Ravindra (Ravi) Chibbar, Ph.D. is a professor and Canada Research Chair, Crop Quality (Molecular Biology & Genetics), Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan. A widely respected plant sciences/crop quality scientist specialized in cereal crops, Dr. Chibbar obtained his Ph.D. degrees from the University of Western Ontario, Canada and the Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He focuses on how to improve grain quality (cereals and pulses) so that in addition to providing calories, grain-based products improve gut health and reduce incidence of obesity and cardiovascular diseases. Dr. Chibbar sits on the Scientific Advisory Council for The Healthy Grains Institute (HGI).

Dr. Pierre Hucl, Ph.D.

Dr. Pierre Hucl, Ph.D. is a professor in the Crop Development Centre, Department of Plant Sciences, College of Agriculture and Bioresources at the University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Hucl obtained his PhD. from the University of Saskatchewan and M.Sc. and B.Sc. from the University of Guelph. His research focus is in the area of genetics and breeding of bread wheat for the short-season areas of Western Canada and the evaluation of alternative wheats and annual canarygrass.

About The Healthy Grains Institute (HGI)

Launched in November 2012, the Healthy Grains Institute’s mission is to inform and enhance Canadians’ knowledge and understanding of the health benefits of grains. The Healthy Grains Institute is guided by an independent and multidisciplinary Scientific Advisory Council consisting of recognized plant science and nutritional experts from across North America. The Healthy Grains Institute is committed to providing Canadians with science-based information on the benefits of grains as an important part of a healthy, balanced diet.

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