According to a new study, artisan bread causes the same effects on the body as ordinary white bread.

Researchers at the Weizmann Institute of Science tested the effects of different types of bread in the body, giving participants the same amount of either white or non-white bread for several days.

Image credit: Cook Diary
Image credit: Cook Diary

They had their glucose, fat, minerals, and cholesterol levels measured at different times of the day. None of the measurements appeared out of the usual.

“There were no clinically significant differences between the effects of these two types of bread on any of the parameters that we measured,” stated Eran Segal, lead author of the study.

Artisan bread differs only in flavor and texture

Artisan bread is often seen as a more healthy alternative when compared to common white bread. Chef Jamie Oliver’s blog assures that mass-produced bread uses chemicals to ferment it faster, while artisan bread uses its own “natural enzymes” to ferment, achieving a different flavor and texture. In the blog, it is also suggested that artisan bread is “easier to digest” because its enzymes were “allowed” to break down the gluten present in flour as the dough fermented.

Gluten is one of the primary reasons to study how different types of bread affect us. In 2009, it was determined that in 50 years, the number of people with coeliac disease increased by 400 percent and that at least one in each 100 people present the condition.

According to the latest study, the effects of bread on the body are vastly undocumented, and sometimes even contradicting, which is rather concerning as bread makes up at least 10 percent of the average adult’s daily caloric intake.

Researchers point out that bread has been a crucial part of the human diet since it was first conceived over 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic era. In 2016, the U.S. produced over 750 million metric tons of bread, and its wide implementation in our diet has caused our gut microbiome to adapt itself to metabolize bread.

What picked up the research team’s curiosity is that there is a great number of people that eat mass-produced white bread compared to those who choose artisanal or homemade bread, both of which show considerable differences, consisting mostly of their preparation process and the additives employed on their refining.

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Image credit:

The germs contained in wheat provide the body with vitamins and minerals, but they are eliminated when the flour is milled for processing. This led previous studies to suggest that artisanal varieties of bread are more healthy than their refined counterparts, as the former could potentially lower the risk of suffering from diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

Additionally, the type of yeast employed to leaven the bread has not been the same throughout history; baker’s yeast has been used for only 150 years while sourdough has been used for thousands of years.

Restricting one’s diet to a certain type of bread

To study how different types of bread affected healthy people, researchers recruited 20 participants and were provided with either commercial white bread made from refined wheat or a bread made out of whole grains and using traditional methods.

The participants were told to consume 50 grams of bread each morning for two weeks and to abstain from ingesting other wheat-based products, including any type of pasta. Their diet was also standardized, to ensure that they would yield similar measurements only altered by the kind of bread they consumed.

Results showed that there were “no significant differences” regarding caloric and macronutrient intake, although there were changes in the number of essential minerals in the participant’s blood. However, these changes were deemed “not necessarily clinically significant.”

Only glycemic response was different in some cases

Only one measurement appeared unusual to researchers. It seems that the glycemic response of each participant differed depending on what type of bread they consumed; half of the participants had an increased glycemic response to white bread, while the other half had an increased response to artisanal bread. Eran Segal refers to this as a “personalized glucose response to bread,” suggesting that some types of bread might be more beneficial for specific people.

The key lies in the gut microbiome. By analyzing stool samples, researchers saw that the gut microbiome of each participant changed slightly depending on the type of bread they consumed. They could not draw specific correlations, as there were no physiological changes, although researchers know that certain types of gut bacteria are more beneficial depending on each person.

They suggest that this is an area of nutritional research that’s widely left out of consideration in a consumer’s point of view, mainly because there is not sufficient study to assess how each type of food is digested.

“To date, nutritional values assigned to food have been based on minimal science, and one-size-fits-all diets have failed miserably. These findings could lead to a more rational approach for telling people which foods are a better fit for them, based on their microbiomes,” stated Segal.

Source: Cell