In a recent survey, conducted by the Assistant professor Enzo Spisni -nutrition physiologist at the University of Bologna-, the nutritional differences between ancient and modern wheat cultivars emerge. The results, obtained by comparing existing clinical trials, highlight the positive role of ancient wheat varieties in the modulation of inflammation and intestinal permeability.

Ancient or Heritage Grains: A Trend Or A Real Nutritional Advantage?

For some years there has been a trend to give more space to the cultivation of ancient grains. Several clinical studies assign these cereals a higher nutritional value, indicating them as a healthier choice than modern crops. But some publications seem to call into question this aspect. Considering that wheat is the main staple food in many countries, providing a large percentage of daily energy intake for billions of people, it is important to understand if there are varieties that can offers real nutritional advantage. Recently Nutrients journal published an interesting review: “Differential physiological responses elicited by ancient and heritage wheat cultivars compared to modern ones”. This survey was conducted by the Assistant professor Enzo Spisni – nutrition physiologist of the University of Bologna – who, with his research team, analyzed the results of relevant studies conducted from 2010 through PubMed search, by using as keywords “ancient or heritage wheat”, “immune wheat” (protein or peptides), and immune gluten (protein or peptides).

The varieties cultivated before the industrialization of agriculture, up to the first half of the twentieth century, are defined as ancient cultivars; these cereals differ from modern ones in appearance, genetics and productivity, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. And on the nutritional level? From the macro and micronutrient point of view, in vitro studies do not reveal great differences between ancient, heritage and modern wheats, but when moving on to clinical studies, conducted on patients and healthy subjects all doubts disappear, and diets based on cultivars ancient or heritage have always shown clear advantages in terms of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities.

Assistant professor Spisni notes that the presence in the ancient grains of a weaker gluten, a lower glycaemic index, a high protein content, a wide variety of polyphenols and carotenoids make these cereals more digestible and, due to the reduced action inflammatory, more suitable for patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

Modern grains instead serve the choice of different criteria that have led to the selection of cereals with more workability characteristics for the industrial processes and higher productivity per hectare, at the expense of a digestive difficulty due to the presence of proteins that reduce the activity of the parasites but inhibit amylase and trypsin.

For more details see the full survey: .