Tuesday, February 28, 2006

GMO low-carb wheat

I'm amused, but maybe not so much intruiged, by this story. Some scientists in Australian wanted to make a wheat variant that would have different proportions of starches. One kind of starch, amylopectin, is quickly converted into sugar in the body, and is digested. (This is particularly true with white bread, and less true with whole-wheat bread, which is why diabetics try to avoid white bread -- to prevent a spike in blood-sugar levels.) The other kind of starch, amylose, isn't digested very well. Usually, wheat starch is about 85% amylopectin and 15% amylose. The researchers tracked down the genes that are responsible for these starches, and modified them in such a way that the proportions of the two types of starch are nearly reversed. The proteins themselves are the same, just the amounts are different. The result was a wheat flour that they fed to lab mice. The mice ate it up, and had healthier GI tracts after a week of the stuff than those eating normal wheat flour. The researchers said they also made some bread out of it, and it tasted pretty good.

I'm not completely against GMO foods -- if they can reduce the levels of herbicides and pesticides that farmers apply to their fields, I'm for it -- but this is perhaps a little pointless, no? They do say that they're going to try to replicate the high-amylose wheat through traditional breeding techniques, to avoid "stigma", which I suppose is a positive development...

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At 3:29 PM, Anonymous Ben said...

I don't understand.

How could anything low-carb be pointless, as you suggest? It sounds like this bread would be slimming.

It reminds me of modified fat compounds that are used in potato chips. They don't get digested, but that results in . . . side effects.

Also, this sets up an interesting paradigm: GM the item, test it, and the produce it through breeding. I imagine that will be how it is done from on.

Finally, real intelligent design.


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