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GRDC making healthy choices

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A new wheat variety promising big health benefits to consumers could be on the market by 2013 thanks to research work partly funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC). 

It’s high amylose wheat and it promises a number of health benefits, including better bowel health, preventing colorectal cancer and improving control of blood glucose, which can help manage diabetes and reduce obesity. 

High amylose wheat (HAW) contains a lot of resistant starch that is not digested in the small intestine, passing instead to the large intestine, where it’s broken down in the colon by bacteria. 

GRDC Executive Manager, New Products, Vince Logan, said high amylose wheat has been developed by Dr Matthew Morell and his team at CSIRO and by the French company Biogemma over the last 10 years. 

The team has already created HAW through genetic modification and researchers were confident of breeding a conventional HAW using lessons from genetic engineering. 

It’s a novel initiative for the GRDC - one of the first wheat varieties it’s been associated with that offers a consumer health benefit, rather than just a production benefit. 

Mr Logan thinks that while there’s a lot of interest in the product around the world, it’s not yet clear how strong the demand for this novel wheat will be. 

To retain its value this specialist product will need to be segregated and milled separately to maintain identity preservation. It will also need a specialist marketing effort to promote its unique health benefits to food manufacturers and consumers. 

While many wheat breeders around the world have tried and failed to develop similar products, Mr Logan believes the strong intellectual property position of the Australian/French developers will put Australian growers in the box seat to gain from the research. 

The wheat is being produced by Arista Cereal Technologies Pty Ltd.,a joint venture between the GRDC, the French company Limagrain Cereales Ingredients and CSIRO’s Food Futures National Research Flagship.

There’s no doubt that if high amylose wheat is readily accepted by the market it could make a significant contribution to community health. Some 80 per cent of deaths from colorectal cancer are preventable, with diet a major factor. 

High amylose wheat will add to the limited list of food products available in Australia that have resistant starch. These include high amylose maize, legumes, brown rice and bananas.  

Western diets have lost a lot of the resistant starches that were in the diet, with reduced consumption of whole grains, stone-ground flours and even stale food, or food that’s been cooked, then cooled. 

Food containing high amylose wheat promises to be an extremely convenient way for people to enjoy the health benefits of resistant starch.

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