White or wholemeal bread? It depends on your gut

11 June 2017

Researchers were shocked to find that some people didn't have a bad glycemic response to white bread.

For many years, health experts have claimed that wheat bread is better than its white counterpart.

However, a new study suggests that this may not hold true for everyone.

Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel have compared different kinds of bread viewed as being on opposite ends of the health spectrum. These include an industrial white bread made from refined wheat and a sourdough-leavened bread made in an artisanal bakery from freshly stone-milled whole grain wheat flour and baked in a stone hearth oven, "assumed to possess superior properties".

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Twenty study participants were then divided into two groups and asked to consume large quantities of bread for a week, and after a two-week break, they switched the bread.

Accordingly, tests revealed that eating the bread of any kind affected the blood levels of sugar, minerals, liver enzymes and other substances.

But the researchers were shocked to find that some people didn't have a bad glycemic response to white bread.

"We were sure that the sourdough bread would come out a healthier choice, but much to our surprise, we found no difference between the health effects of the two types of bread," said Professor Eran Segal.

In response to the findings, the researchers have theorised that difference in the gut microbiome may explain why people respond differently to different slices of bread.

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But in spite of the discovery, Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Langone Medical Center, has stated that the results of the small study don't offer a "free pass" to eat a lot of processed white bread.

"Epidemiological research has shown that people who eat the whole grains, such as whole-grain bread, crackers, cereals, brown rice and quinoa, have a reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, obesity and certain cancers," she told CBS News.

The full study has been published in Cell Metabolism.

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