Ancient Heritage Wheat May Spell Tolerance for Gluten-Sensitive and Celiac Patients

Dag Endresen/CC BY 2.0

Across the country, there’s a growing sentiment to turn back to our roots. Both in terms of how we grow our food and the heirloom seeds that we use to do it. Heritage grains, those that were around long before grains were widely hybridized to boost yield, are a part of the growing phenomenon, according to a story in Pacific Standard.

Einkorn the Answer

One in particular that's getting some special attention is einkorn, a nutritious ancient grain that may be digestible to those with gluten allergies, or the more serious celiac disease. Einkorn has a different gluten structure than modern grains, made up of far fewer chromosomes.

Eli Rogosa, Director of Heritage Wheat Conservancy, is working on a study on ancient grains and gluten sensitivity as well as complete intolerance. According to Pacific Standard:

Rogosa, in partnership with the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is testing to see if gluten-sensitive celiacs can tolerate the grain. Rogosa is also growing plants on site and organizing conferences with artisan bakers and crop specialists on the farming of heritage wheats in New England.

Refinement an Issue

Bob Klein, co-owner of Oakland, California’s Oliveto restaurant and founder of Community Grains, thinks that other differences in the modern grain make it intolerable.

“Things like goat grass were introduced into the wheat strain, and there’s evidence that some degree of intolerance comes from goat grass,” says Klein to Pacific Standard. If you look at earlier varieties, he explains, you don’t see that problem. “You have this modern phenomenon of lots of people becoming intolerant to gluten, and it’s indisputable. But it’s also very hazy as to what it is exactly, and whether it’s one cause or many. One theory is that we’re responding not to the grain itself but the refinement, and I’m in that class.”

It’s exciting news and it speaks to the need to preserve these ancient grains--around long before refinement and yield became the goal.

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Tags: Agriculture | Farming

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