A research project at the University of California Davis is introducing changes into wheat genes that may have positive health implications for consumers. The effort is funded by a grant from the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). A write up of this project appeared on the USDA’s Science Tuesday blog series.

Bread and pasta are favorites, and are a staple in many diets. However, the carbohydrates found in those foods may also present a problem for those who struggle with obesity and its attendant health issues.

One solution is to increase what is called the “resistant starch content” of wheat. Resistant starch is an important component of dietary fiber. It can help reduce blood glucose and insulin levels, provide a sense of feeling full after eating (satiety), lower cholesterol and improve GI health.

Brittany Hazard is a UC Davis doctoral student who is working on the research team. She told the USDA’s Amanda Hils this:


“In the American diet, more than 500 calories come from wheat products each day, which means that any improvements in the nutritional value of wheat could deliver health benefits to consumers.”

“Adequate levels of resistant starch may help in obesity-related conditions such as heart disease and Type 2 diabetes,” Hazard said. “Consuming resistant starch may also reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States.”

These kinds of health benefits are likely to drive demand for resistant starch wheat varieties from consumers, bread producers and even grain growers. Hazard indicated that it “may take 5-10 years of research and development to bring new resistant starch products to market.” It’s an involved process that includes educating consumers and growers (about nutritional value and benefits), and even creating new recipes.

This work is part of the University of California’s Global Food Initiative, which is harnessing the institution’s resources to address one of the most compelling issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population.


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