Cholesterol-busting bread a possibility
Cholesterol reducing bread is a step closer to being achieved, according to Australian scientists.
The CSIRO are trying to develop a wheat variety that will have similar health benefits to barley and oat grains. This is because both those contain high levels of a soluble fibre called beta-glucan, which can reduce cholesterol as well as lower the risk of heart disease.
Unfortunately wheat has much lower levels of beta-glucan which means for a lot of people with high cholesterol, it isn’t suitable for regular consumption.
"There are very small differences in the enzyme that makes beta-glucan in wheat and oats,” CSIRO principal research scientist Dr Steve Jobling told abc.net.au. “In fact, there is a single amino acid difference in the protein and we have found that single amino acid difference can change the structure and make it more soluble.”
The team has produced a bunch of wheat crops which have the gene that gives oats their cholesterol-reducing properties incorporated into them.
“These plants are genetically modified because they have a gene from oat in wheat and we're growing them in a controlled field trial at the moment to get enough grain to test their bread making qualities, as well as to determine if they actually do have cholesterol lowering properties," he added.
While Dr Jobling is confident that grain will help make tasty bread for high cholesterol sufferers, he admits the next step will be tricky; breeding the variety naturally.
“This will be much more difficult, but we think with the new knowledge that we have got about beta-glucan structure it is possible, although that is going to be several more years yet," he said. "With a genetic modification approach it is a very precise technology and you can just take the gene that you know controls the trait and put that into the wheat crop and you know it will have the effect. With the conventional breeding, you have to search for changes in the gene of interest and it'll take a lot lot longer."
Dr Jobling expects it to take at least five years for the wheat to be available in shops.