New Study to Reduce Anti-Nutrients in Wheat Completed

In recent years, more and more consumers are searching out alternatives to traditional wheat-based products due to digestibility issues, such as non-celiac gluten sensitivity and irritable bowel syndrome. In response, the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council (MWRPC), in partnership with the University of Minnesota’s College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS) and its Regional Sustainable Development Partnership, the Agricultural Utilization Research Institute (AURI), and Back When Foods, Inc., recently completed an initial study of options to reduce wheat digestibility concerns. This research has the potential to catalyze the creation of new products and processes that will positively impact the entire wheat industry value chain.

The goal of this project was to identify specific varieties of wheat with lower levels of naturally occurring anti-nutrients, such as fermentable sugars known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols) and ATI (amylase trypsin inhibitor) proteins. The project team also evaluated fermentation as a potential processing technique to further reduce these anti-nutrients.

Research and Results

University of Minnesota research for this project characterized the FODMAPs and ATIs across 220 ancient, heritage and modern spring wheat varieties curated by the University of Minnesota wheat breeding program, going back to the late 1800’s.  After harvesting, 220 whole grain wheat samples were analyzed for levels of FODMAPs and ATIs. DNA was extracted from all of the varieties, and samples were genotyped using genotyping-by-sequencing. The resulting genetic markers were used to find associations with genes influencing FODMAP and ATI content. Results from genetic mapping did not show any genomic region responsible for a large portion of the genetic variation for these traits. Rather, it is many genes of minor effect that are explaining most of the variations for ATIs and FODMAPs. Both traits, however, should be amenable to selection using conventional breeding methods and genomic prediction.

Additionally, wheat samples showed significant variation in FODMAP and ATI levels across a diverse panel of wheat varieties, including modern wheat germplasm. FODMAPs and ATI levels ranged from 0.4 to 1.2 grams per 100 grams and 1.8 to 3.9 grams per 100 grams, respectively. These results were used to group the wheat samples according to FODMAP and ATI levels for the fermentation study of the research, which looked into the effects of fermentation on the levels of FODMAPS and ATI after processing the wheat into sourdough. Type 1 sourdough preparation was used at different fermentation times (4 hours and 12 hours).

Conclusions

The variations in the levels of FODMAPs and ATI in the wheat varieties screened may allow for the selective breeding of wheat for lower levels of FODMAPs and ATI. Notably, ancient einkorn and emmer wheats were consistently low in FODMAPs, and einkorn varieties were also low in ATI levels. Both FODMAP and ATI levels appear to be under complex genetic control, so selective breeding for these traits will be more difficult. However, new approaches involving DNA sequencing and genomic prediction will be used to enhance breeding efforts to reduce FODMAP and ATI levels.

Fermentation during the production of sourdough bread was effective in reducing the levels of ATI and fructans in the fermented wheat doughs. This means there is a readily available solution through the sourdough process to reduce levels of FODMAPS and ATIs to create more digestible wheat products for consumers with digestibility issues.

To view the recent video and learn more about this research and follow its progress, visit: www.auri.org/agri.

Financial support for this project was provided by an Agricultural Growth, Research, & Innovation Crop Research Grant from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. The AGRI program awards grants, scholarships, and cost shares to advance Minnesota’s agricultural and renewable energy industries. For more information about the AGRI program, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/grants/agri. To learn more about AGRI Crop Research Grants, visit www.mda.state.mn.us/cropresearch

About AURI

The Agricultural Utilization Research Institute’s mission is to foster long-term economic benefit through value-added agricultural products. It accomplishes this by using science and technology to help develop new uses for agricultural products. It partners with businesses and entrepreneurs to generate economic impact in Minnesota communities by helping businesses take advantage of innovative opportunities in four focus areas: biobased products, renewable energy, coproducts and food. AURI provides a broad range of services, including applied research and development, scientific assistance and a targeted network of resources to develop value-added uses for crops and coproducts.