Thursday, May 28, 2015

Khorasan, a "Paleo Wheat" That Could Improve Our Heart Health? Study Shows Sign. Improvements in Inflammation, Glucose & Lipid Metabolism vs. Regular Wheat Products

Regular wheat (left) and khorasan (right) look almost alike, well, if we go by the reputation of "lighter = unhealthier", the healthy "paleo wheat" would actually look like the worse choice, but studies show, it is the exact opposite.
You all know that cardiovascular Disease (CVD) causes approximately one-third of all deaths globally in both developed and developing countries. In fact, coronary Heart Disease is the largest contributor of CVD, and encompasses Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS), which is an acute pathology associated with atherosclerotic plaque rupture and interruption of coronary blood to myocardial tissue.

As Whittaker et al. point out in the prelude to their latest article in the Open Access journal nutrients, patients with ACS are at particularly high risk of both fatal and non-fatal recurrent cardiovascular events despite stringent medical therapies (Whittaker. 2015).
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It is thus obvious that any dietary and/or lifestyle changes that could reduce the incidence of Acute Coronary Syndrome could be a literal lifesaver. In the experiment Anne Whittaker and her colleagues describe in the previously mentioned paper, the scientists from the University of Florence examined whether replacing regular wheat products with organic khorasan wheat (aka Kamut(R), which is a commercially available version of khorosan wheat), an ancient grain with previously reported health benefits in clinically healthy subjects, could be this lifesaver and can provide additive protective effects in reducing lipid, oxidative and inflammatory risk factors, in patients with Acute Coronary Syndromes (ACS) in comparison to a similar replacement diet using products made from organic modern wheat.
Figure 1: Rel. pre- vs. post-changes in markers of lipid and glucose metabolism (Whittaker. 2015).
The experiment was a randomized double-blinded crossover trial with two intervention phases that involved 22 ACS patients (9 F; 13 M) who were assigned to consume products (bread, pasta, biscuits and crackers) made either from organic semi-whole khorasan wheat or organic semi-whole control wheat for eight weeks in a random order.
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Khorasan wheat is also a great source of magnesium and a gut health improver: In view of the significant correlation between messed up (low) magnesium levels and (pre-)diabetes, at least some of the improvements in glucose metabolism may be a consequence of the significant increase in serum magnesium the scientists observed in the "paleo wheat" group. Of similar importance are probably its beneficial effect on the morphology of the gut mucosa and its effects on the gut microbiome as they have been shown in rodent studies by Carnevali et al. (2015) who found significant changes in the gut microflora and speculate that khorosan wheat may have a "hormetic effect, eliciting an adaptive response that protects the organism against both oxidative stress and inflammation" (Carnevali. 2014).
On average, patients ingested 62.0 g dry weight (DW) day−1 khorasan or control semolina; and 140.5 g DW day−1 khorasan or control flour, respectively. 
"An eight-week washout period was implemented between the respective interventions. Blood analyses were performed both at the beginning and end of each intervention phase; thereby permitting a comparison of both the khorasan and control intervention phases, respectively, on circulatory risk factors for the same patient" (Whittaker. 2015). 
The results of the study are - at least in my humble opinion - quite surprising: The consumption of the khorasan wheat products resulted in a significant reduction in total cholesterol (−6.8%), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) (−8.1%) glucose (−8%) and insulin (−24.6%) from baseline levels, independently of age, sex, traditional risk factors, medication and diet quality. 
Figure 2: Changes in markers of inflammation (L-, M-derived ROS, TNF-alpha), anti-oxidant defenses (TAC), and lipid oxidation (L-, M-lipoperox) after 8 weeks on the respective diets (Whittaker. 2015).
Moreover, Whittaker et al. observed a significant reduction in reactive oxygen species (ROS), lipoperoxidation of circulating monocytes and lymphocytes, as well as in the levels of Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha) - changes that were (obviously?) not observed in the subjects on the conventional control wheat products.
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So what? Ok, I have to admit that the study does not prove that eating any form of grains was superior to not eating any grains, but the significant improvements in highly relevant markers of metabolic health and inflammation is non-negligible. In view of the fact that it appears unrealistic to assume that people let go of their beloved breads, cereals and other "wheat" or generally grain-based products, the "paleo wheat" khorasan would be an option to help people reduce their "circulating cardiovascular risk factors, including lipid parameters, and markers of both oxidative stress and inflammatory status" (Whittaker. 2015) in order to reduce their individual heart disease risk.

What remains to be seen, though, is whether the products can be made as palatable as their "regular" counterparts... ah, and whether the benefits persist once they taste just as jummy / are just as heavily processed, obviously | Comment on Facebook!
References:
  • Carnevali, Andrea, et al. "Role of Kamut® brand khorasan wheat in the counteraction of non-celiac wheat sensitivity and oxidative damage." Food Research International 63 (2014): 218-226.
  • Whittaker, Anne, et al. "An Organic Khorasan Wheat-Based Replacement Diet Improves Risk Profile of Patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome: A Randomized Crossover Trial." Nutrients 7.5 (2015): 3401-3415.