Increased Fiber, Same Great Taste

University of California, Davis

Year Awarded  2019

FFAR award amount   $479,997

Total award amount   $959,997

Location   Davis, CA

Program   Seeding Solutions

Matching Funders   Bay State Milling, California Wheat Commission, Limagrain Cereal Seeds

  • Health-Agriculture Nexus

Increasing Fiber without Sacrificing Taste

Americans only consume 30% of fiber that the National Heart Association recommends and diets lacking fiber are linked to serious health concerns. One way to increase fiber consumption is by producing wheat varieties that contain more fiber. Consumers tend to prefer refined wheat products, such as white bread. A wheat variety with increased fiber, must still be appealing to consumers. This increase in fiber content is possible by increasing the amount of “resistant starch” in the wheat crop and the additional resistant starch behaves as dietary fiber when ingested. Using wheat with higher resistant starch levels in refined flour products can translate into a significant boost in the public’s consumption of dietary fiber without sacrificing taste.

Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky, distinguished professor at University of California, Davis has developed a way to successfully increase dietary fiber in wheat. With funding from Bay State Milling, California Wheat Commission, FFAR and LimaGrain Cereal Seeds, Dubcovsky developed three different high-fiber wheat varieties that increase ‘resistant starch’ ten times that of traditional wheat flour and maintain high yields.

Ducovsky standing in a field of wheat.
Jorge Dubcovsky in a field of wheat. Photo Source: UC Davis, Department of Plant Sciences

Details about this Research

Dubcovsky successfully increased dietary fiber in wheat by increasing amylose, a type of resistant starch. This starch is more difficult to digest, allowing it to move through our gastrointestinal tracks without being digested, improving gut health.

Wheat has three sets of chromosomes with triplicated genetic information. Researchers used genetic tools to knockout the triplicated copies of the genes that transform amylose into a more digestible from of starch, called amylopectin, promoting the accumulation of resistant starch. For each 100 grams of flour, traditional varieties have 0.23 grams of resistant starch, whereas the varieties resulting from this research have 2.66 grams. The high-fiber varieties resulting from this research still include the properties consumers desire in white bread, like taste and mouthfeel.

Through the Increasing Dietary Fiber in Wheat Crop grant, researchers developed high-fiber wheat products that are affordable and accessible. These high-fiber wheat varieties, now licensed by Bay State Milling, are available today to consumers and can be found in many of their products, such as pasta or ice cream cones.

Resulting Improved Wheat Varieties

Dubcovksy’s work has produced three distinct wheat varieties.

  • Hard Red Spring wheat variety UC-Lassik-RS.
  • Hard White Spring wheat variety UC-Patwin-RS.
  • Pasta wheat variety UC-Desert King-RS.
HealthSense ® High Fiber Wheat Flour. Photo Source: Bay State Milling
HealthSense ® High Fiber Wheat Flour. Photo Source: Bay State Milling
Most of the refined flour is starch, so the trick is to incorporate the fiber into the starch. We increased the relative amount of ‘resistant-starch,’ which is not digested in the small intestine and works as dietary fiber. We are now combining modern and traditional breeding methods to improve the grain yield of the high-resistant-starch varieties, to make this healthy product more affordable to consumers. Dr. Jorge Dubcovsky
Distinguished Professor at University of California, Davis

High-Fiber Wheat Benefits

  • Increased dietary fiber without sacrificing taste.
  • A balanced digestive system, promotes regular bowel movements, helps control blood sugar levels.
  • Better mental, heart and immune health.
  • FFAR amplified taxpayer investment in agriculture research that resulted in healthier products on store shelves.

Next Steps for Wheat Research

Researchers have previously attempted to increase fiber content in refined wheat flour through technology and breeding; however, the first generation of these wheat varieties reduced grain yield, making the grain more costly. The high-fiber wheat varieties that resulted from Dubcovsky’s research have significantly reduced yield gaps. Additionally, dedicated breeding efforts are underway build on this research by further increasing the yield of the high-resistant starch wheat varieties.

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