Quinoa. Millet. Sorghum. Farro. These are all grains that have been cultivated for thousands of years. Nowadays, they are often classified as “ancient wheats” and have been heralded for having a range of health benefits, often evidenced in the lipid and glycemic profiles of people who eat these products. Products made with these products tend to be less refined than products made with other sources of grain, such as white rice. As a result, ancient wheats hold on to more of their nutritional value. This can include omega-3 fatty acids.
A new study published in Frontiers in Nutrition seeks to understand some of these health benefits by looking closely at how these ancient wheats impact the gut microbiota in the human body. The gut microbiota has been the subject of a significant amount of research in recent years, especially as researchers learn more about the gut’s connection to the overall health of the human body.
The study in Frontiers reports on a double-blind crossover trial with 20 participants. All participants were asked to eat either a pasta made from semi-whole flour derived from either ancient or modern wheat for eight weeks. After an eight week washout period, participants then participated in the opposite intervention. Researchers collected stool samples before and after participants started each intervention to evaluate for gut microbiota composition and the production of short and medium-chain fatty acids (SCFAs and MCFAs).
Overall, researchers found that the different interventions did not initiate significant changes to gut microbiota diversity, particularly at higher ranks of organisms (e.g., little diversity changes occurred at the phylum level or above). Changes did occur more at the genus levels. In addition, each intervention impacted the abundance of different organisms.
Researchers did, however, note that the intervention with ancient wheat products did lead to the development of more SCFAs. These fatty acids, often created from the digestion of dietary fiber, have been known to have anti-inflammatory benefits.