Modern wheat has been criticized for being less nutritious than older varieties.
To expand the evidence base, a group of scientists examined the health effects of Khorasan wheat on people with type 2 diabetes.
Their results were recently published in the European Journal of Nutrition.
Modern wheat is a key component of many people’s diets.
Recently, a few human trials have focused on Khorasan wheat, also called Kamut. Khorasan wheat is an ancient type of wheat with grains that are larger than those of modern wheat.
Three randomized trials, all done by the same research group, have shown that Khorasan wheat may have health effects that are superior to modern wheat.
One 6-week trial in men and women with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) showed that eating Khorasan wheat instead of modern wheat reduced inflammation and improved symptoms of IBS (3).
Another randomized trial in patients with heart disease found that a diet based on Khorasan wheat improved blood lipids, blood sugar control, inflammatory factors and antioxidant status, compared to modern wheat (2).
Finally, a trial in healthy individuals showed that Khorasan wheat had favorable effects on heart disease risk factors such as blood lipids, blood sugar, inflammatory markers and antioxidant status (1).
A group of Italian researchers compared the health effects of diets based on modern wheat and Khorasan wheat in people with type 2 diabetes.
This was a randomized, crossover trial examining the health effects of modern wheat and Khorasan wheat in people with type 2 diabetes.
A total of 21 diabetic men and women, with an average age of 64, participated in the study. The participants were assigned to two groups, in random order:
- Khorasan wheat: This 8-week diet was based on wheat products made using organic, KAMUT® Khorasan wheat. The flour used was semi-whole.
- Modern wheat: This 8-week control diet was based on wheat products made using organic, modern wheat. The flour used was semi-whole. Specifically, this was a mix of modern durum wheat and soft wheat varieties.
In both groups, the participants’ weekly consumption of wheat products included 500 grams of pasta, 250 grams of crackers and 250 grams of biscuits. Additionally, they ate 150 grams of bread each day.
The wheat products accounted for 50–55% of the participants’ daily calorie intake.
Since the study had a crossover design, all participants were in both groups on different occasions, separated by 8 weeks.
At the start and end of the study, the researchers measured fasting blood sugar, insulin, blood lipids, inflammatory markers and antioxidant status.
Bottom Line: This was a randomized, crossover trial examining the effects of replacing modern wheat with Khorasan wheat on blood sugar control and heart disease risk factors.
Finding 1: Khorasan Wheat Improved Blood Sugar Control
Eating Khorasan wheat reduced fasting levels of blood sugar by 9.1% and insulin by 16.3%, whereas modern wheat had no effects.
The difference between groups was significant only for insulin. The chart below shows the changes in blood sugar and insulin in both groups.
The researchers also estimated insulin sensitivity, which improved significantly when the participants consumed Khorasan wheat, compared to modern wheat.
Bottom Line: Consuming Khorasan wheat significantly improved fasting levels of blood sugar and insulin.
Finding 2: Khorasan Wheat Reduced LDL-Cholesterol
Replacing modern wheat with Khorasan wheat improved the blood lipid profile, reducing levels of total cholesterol by 3.7% and LDL-cholesterol by 3.4%.
In contrast, the diet that contained modern wheat seemed to increase total and LDL cholesterol levels slightly, although the effect was not statistically significant.
Bottom Line: Khorasan wheat improved cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol, compared to modern wheat.
Finding 3: Khorasan Wheat Improved Antioxidant Status
Previous studies have shown that high levels of blood sugar may impair antioxidant status, increasing the generation of harmful reactive oxygen species (ROS).
In the present study, eating Khorasan wheat significantly improved antioxidant status, whereas eating modern wheat had no significant effects.
In fact, Khorasan wheat improved total antioxidant capacity by 6.3%, and also reduced levels of ROS.
However, there were no significant differences between groups.
These findings are supported by a previous study examining the health effects of Khorasan wheat in healthy individuals (1).
Bottom Line: Eating Khorasan wheat significantly improved antioxidant status. However, there were no significant differences between groups.
This study appears to have been designed and implemented well. Nonetheless, a few potential limitations should be mentioned.
First, the study size was small, which limits its statistical power.
Additionally, the paper doesn’t mention the fiber content of the wheat flours used in the study. Yet fiber is highly relevant, since it can affect various health markers.
Finally, the study was supported by a grant from Kamut Enterprises of Europe, which also provided the Khorasan wheat used in the study. However, the authors declared no conflicts of interest.
Bottom Line: This paper had a few limitations, including lack of information on the fiber content of the diets. Additionally, the study was funded by a company that sells Khorasan wheat.
Summary and Real-Life Application
In short, this study showed that when modern wheat accounts for about half of people’s daily calorie intake, replacing it with Khorasan wheat may have multiple health benefits.
These results are supported by a few previous studies by the same research group, and they were all funded by a Khorasan wheat producer. Although this does not discount the results, they should be confirmed by an independent research group.
If you want to improve your health, replacing your wheat with other fiber-rich grains may help. Khorasan wheat appears to be a good choice.