Despite many studies looking at which bread is the healthiest, it is still not clear what effect bread and differences among bread types have on clinically relevant parameters and on the microbiome. In the journal Cell Metabolism, Weizmann Institute researchers report the results of a comprehensive, randomized trial in 20 healthy subjects comparing differences in how processed white bread and artisanal whole wheat sourdough affect the body.
Surprisingly, the investigators found the bread itself didn’t greatly affect the participants and that different people reacted differently to the bread. The research team then devised an algorithm to help predict how individuals may respond to the bread in their diets.
All of the participants in the study normally consumed about 10% of their calories from bread. Half were assigned to consume an increased amount of processed, packaged white bread for a week – around 25% of their calories – and half to consume an increased amount of whole wheat sourdough, which was baked especially for the study and delivered fresh to the participants. After a 2-week period without bread, the diets for the two groups were reversed.
Before the study and throughout the time it was ongoing, many health effects were monitored. These included wakeup glucose levels; levels of the essential minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium; fat and cholesterol levels; kidney and liver enzymes; and several markers for inflammation and tissue damage. The investigators also measured the makeup of the participants’ microbiomes before, during, and after the study.
“The initial finding, and this was very much contrary to our expectation, was that there were no clinically significant differences between the effects of these two types of bread on any of the parameters that we measured,” says Eran Segal, a computational biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science and one of the study’s senior authors. “We looked at a number of markers, and there was no measurable difference in the effect that this type of dietary intervention had.”
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