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Can research find bread that works for people with wheat sensitivities?

Some people who can't eat regular breads without digestive problems can eat sourdough breads and breads made in Europe or Asia. But why? Researchers are trying to figure that out.

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Homemade sourdough bread was displayed in the kitchen of Loni Larson of Fargo, North Dakota
Jeff Beach / Agweek
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Why are some people who have trouble digesting wheat able to eat sourdough bread or wheat products made in Europe or Asia.

In our Future of Food series, Jeff Beach talked to University of Minnesota researches, as well as a farmer and a baker, who are trying to make a better bread.

The University of Minnesota has been researching the effects of dough fermentation and wheat variety in creating bread that is easier to digest.

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No matter what separates us, we all have at least one thing in common — we all eat.
Agweek and our partners at Forum Communications Company are thinking about the Future of Food. This reporting series looks at the techniques and technologies that are advancing agriculture and the science around our foods and food production.



WHY ARE SOME PEOPLE WHO HAVE TROUBLE DIGESTING WHEAT ABLE TO EAT SOURDOUGH BREAD, OR WHEAT PRODUCTS MADE IN EUROPE OR ASIA? UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA RESEARCHERS ARE STUDYING THE FERMENTATION OF SOURDOUGH BREAD, AND THE WHEAT VARIETIES USED IN MAKING DOUGH, IN HOPES OF MAKING A BETTER BREAD. JEFF BEACH GIVES YOU A TASTE.

Brian LaPlante: THERE'S MORE THAT WE DON'T KNOW ABOUT FERMENTATION THAN WE DO KNOW, AND IT'S A WONDERFULLY COMPLEX WORLD.

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BRIAN LAPLANTE'S JOURNEY INTO FOOD RESEARCH BEGAN WHEN HIS YOUNG SON STARTED HAVING HEALTH ISSUES.

Brian LaPlante: WITHIN 15-20 MINUTES OF EATING HIS BLOOD SUGARS WOULD SPIKE, AND THEN TWENTY, THIRTY MINUTES LATER IT WOULD CRASH...

LAPLANTE AND HIS WIFE STARTED RESEARCHING THEIR SON'S DIGESTIVE PROBLEMS. LAPLANTE'S BROTHER CRAIG GROWS WHEAT ON THE FAMILY FARM NEAR CROOKSTON, MINNESOTA, SO HE GREW SOME ANCIENT GRAINS THAT THEY USED TO MAKE SOURDOUGH BREAD. ALONG WITH OTHER FERMENTED FOODS, THEY SAW A DRAMATIC IMPROVEMENT IN THEIR SON'S HEALTH.

Brian LaPlante: WHEN YOU HAVE FERMENTED FOOD IN YOUR DIET, IT HAS A PROFOUND IMPACT ON YOUR MICROBIOME. AND I THINK THAT WILL BE THE TREND, IS FOOD WILL BECOME YOUR MEDICINE AGAIN.

LAPLANTE STARTED A BUSINESS CALLED "BACK WHEN FOODS" THAT DEVELOPS "SLOW FOODS" WITH LESS PROCESSING, THAT LAPLANTE SAYS ARE HEALTHIER. HE'S BEEN WORKING WITH RESEARCHERS AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA. THEY'RE LOOKING INTO HOW FERMENTATION TIMES AND VARIETIES OF WHEAT AFFECT DIGESTIBILITY.

James Anderson: IT WOULD BE, YOU KNOW, A QUALITY OF LIFE ISSUE IF THEY COULD GET BACK TO EATING FOODS THAT THEY ENJOY.

U OF M RESEARCHERS ARE GROWING ABOUT TWO HUNDRED VARIETIES OF WHEAT NEAR CROOKSTON AND ST. PAUL. WHEAT BREEDER JAMES ANDERSON ACKNOWLEDGES WHEAT SENSITIVITY HAS INCREASED OVER THE LAST FEW DECADES, BUT HE SAYS THEIR RESEARCH SHOWS NO INCREASE IN FODMAPS AND ATI'S.

James Anderson: RIGHT NOW, WE'RE KIND OF POINTING THE FINGER MORE AT THE PROCESSING SIDE OF THINGS FOR THE INCREASES IN WHEAT SENSITIVITY, BUT WHEAT BREEDING CAN CONTRIBUTE TO REDUCING THIS PROBLEM TOO, JUST BY LOWERING FODMAPS AND ATI'S IN FUTURE VARIETIES.

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ANDERSON SAYS FOOD COMPANIES AND GROWERS ARE ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THE POTENTIAL FOR NEW VARIETIES OF WHEAT THAT MORE PEOPLE CAN EAT.

*sounds of bread being taken out of oven*

LONI LARSON HAS BUILT A SMALL BUSINESS SELLING SOURDOUGH BAKED GOODS. SHE SAYS SHE LOVES HEARING FROM CUSTOMERS WHO CAN ENJOY BREAD AGAIN.

Loni Larson: THAT'S LIKE THE BEST FEEDBACK, THE BEST NEWS I CAN HEAR, IS PEOPLE WHO COULDN'T EAT BREAD BEFORE CAN NOW EAT THIS BREAD.

THIS IS JEFF BEACH FOR AGWEEK.

THESE STUDIES HAVE BEEN FUNDED BY THE MINNESOTA AG DEPARTMENT.

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