Replacing modern wheat with Kamut International’s trademarked ancient wheat in the diet may reduce symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), finds research.
Published in the British Journal of Nutrition researchers investigated how the ancient wheat strain Khorasan impacted IBS symptoms, compared to regular modern wheat.
The research was prompted by earlier findings that Kamut’s ancient wheat strain improved the levels of inflammatory markers in healthy people. Given that IBS is linked to low level inflammation, the team was working on the theory that the wheat strain would be beneficial to sufferers.
Findings showed that patients experienced “a significant decrease” in the severity of IBS symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, stool consistency and tiredness, after replacing modern wheat with Khorasan in the diet.
Researchers from the University of Florence and the city’s Careggi University Hospital also found that the Kamut wheat improved improved the inflammatory profile by reducing pro-inflammatory markers in IBS sufferers – reducing their overall inflammatory profile.
“This is the first study that has provided evidence for the potential role of a ‘staple food’ towards improving circulating levels of cytokines in parallel with improvements in IBS symptoms,” they wrote.
“The positive and significant improvements in IBS symptoms associated with changes in the profile of pro-inflammatory cytokines lend support to IBS as being a low-grade inflammation condition,” they added.
‘Clear cut’ results a surprise
Robert M. Quinn, founder of Kamut International who funded the research, said that the company had expected its wheat variety would relieve IBS symptoms based on previous research, but added that he was surprised the results were so strong.
“I did not expect the results to be so clear cut without exception as they were because when you are working with human subjects, there is normally some variability. I was also surprised about the amount of reduction of symptoms seen with the Kamut products,” he said.
Over a six-week period starting in November 2012, 20 participants aged 18-59 years who were classified as having moderate IBS, had to incorporate pasta, bread, crackers and biscuits into their diet – either made from modern wheat or Khorasan wheat.
Ten of the subjects reported fewer abdominal pains and bloating after eating Khorasan wheat and 12 said they had improved bowel habits. Overall, 14 of the patients responded positively following a diet of Khorasan wheat in place of modern wheat, the research found.
This must be viewed as a preliminary study
The researchers said while the present results were promising, further and larger studies needed to confirm that this dietary approach could be of clinical interest for the large population of patients suffering with IBS.
Quinn agreed and said that the study needed to be followed up with large-scale investigations. “The size was limited by our budget. It must be viewed as a preliminary study but since the results are so consistent, the study can be given more credibility than normally due a study of this size,” he said.
He added that the significant finding in the study was the level of difference on how people responded to ancient and modern wheat, which suggested there was much more to consider than just the presence or absence of gluten or wheat. “There must be significant qualitative and health-promoting differences between modern and ancient wheat that are certainly worth studying further,” he said.
Asked if these new findings would prompt the company to position its product differently, Quinn said: “I had not really though in terms of a target audience, but we want to make sure that IBS sufferers know about the study as it may be of help to them.”
Source: British Journal of Nutrition
Published 2014, online ahead of print, doi: 10.1017/S000711451400018X
“Effect of Triticum turgidum subsp. turanicum wheat on irritable bowel syndrome: a double-blinded randomised dietary intervention trial”
Authors: F. Sofi, A. Whittaker, AM. Gori, F. Cesari, E. Surrenti, R. Abbate, GF. Gensini, S. Benedettelli and A. Casini