The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Interesting article: health benefits of sourdough/whole wheat/whole grain

spsq's picture

Interesting article: health benefits of sourdough/whole wheat/whole grain

I thought people here might find this interesting!  I loves me whole grain (fortunately, I have a flour mill), but good to know sourdough is good to!

Yerffej's picture

Fascinating article and of interest to me as the vast majority of my baking is with sourdough.  Here is an essay on whole grains that may shed more light on the subject.


suave's picture

But this is another piece by the Mary Enig, famous for spouting pseudoscientific nonsense.   "Cruelty to grains"? "...process that destroys nutrients and turns the proteins in grains into veritable poisons."? Puh-leze.  If we start believing into this sort of stuff we might as well get our financial advice from Kevin Trudeau.


benjamin's picture

This is so very typical, and something that causes me much frustration. I am a biochemist and work as a molecular biology research scientist. Unfortunately I read articles like this all too often... the author has taken a few fundamental truths of biochemistry and cellular metabolism and distorted them into a sensationalist rant, which makes very little sense to me. Without sounding condescending, the average person has limited knowledge of cellular processes and metabolism (quite understandably), so articles like this using scientific words and reasoning seem very legitimate and believable to the masses. Unfortunately, certain individuals take advantage of this to generate sensational headlines for book deals.

In reality this article is based on distorted half truths and is laughable at points. It is the responsibility of the scientific community to communicate and inform the general public regarding research and current scientific thinking, bridging the gap between scientists and non-scientists, allowing everyone to make informed unbiased decisions. However it turns out that we are doing an awful job of this, which is really bad for everyone, since it is left down to average people to vote and decide on allocation of research funding etc. So the consequence of this fundamental lack of communication can be much more damaging than some money hungry person, spouting half-baked ideas in order to sell a book on nutrition.

 This kind of stuff really bothers me, as general advice, read everthing with a critical eye (to some degree). How many times have we heard that a certain vegetable is a 'superfood', and then next week that same item will give you bowel cancer if you eat too much.

Well, thats the end of my rant for today... I appologise, that was rather heavy for a Friday afternoon!



suave's picture

I'm afraid that despite being named Graham the author of the study is about to be crucified by the "health community" for saying that under certain conditions white flour may provide more benefits than whole wheat.


Yerffej's picture

"...the Mary Enig, famous for spouting pseudoscientific nonsense"

Please fill me in.  What's her story?


Mini Oven's picture
Mini Oven

Seems to me Prof. Terry Graham, is rather slow or he would have included more sourdough & flour varieties in his test. That is why I feel this test in still incomplete. He could just be starting a base study and going on from there, I surely hope so. No one can tell me this is new information.   And where are the women test persons?  :)

There is a lot of nutritional information on how fermented and sprouted, flours and grains have more beneficial effects than their original counterparts, non-gluten grains included. The best thing about having a grain shortage, is that this kind of information is coming to light. Good!  With a demand for more nutrition and positive grain benefits, the processing of grains and flour and how we make our bread is being questioned.  Very Good!

Everyone should question everything, quality control demands constant attention.

Mini O

spsq's picture

One thing I noticed, btw, is that the article specified the difference b/n whole wheat flour and whole GRAIN flour.  It's so sad to me that whole wheat does not mean whole grain, but the general public is largely not aware of this "deception".  Mimi, you make a good point too: the added benefits of other whole grain flours, sprouted grains, etc., are not factored in.  It does make me happy that there are - apparently - recognizable benefits to sourdough - I love wg bread, but sometime a good crusty, holey baguette is just the tops.


I'm gonna develop me a sourdough, whole grain, multi flour, sprouted wheat, crusty and holey baguette.  That should have all the bases covered!

PaddyL's picture

I've been making white sourdough bread now for a few months and, after reading this study, I started testing my blood sugar more often and it turn out there's some truth in what he says.  My blood sugar is not spiking as it would were I to eat plain white bread or even non-sourdough ww bread.  Maybe it doesn't work to the benefit of all diabetics, but it does for me, and it's worth trying.

Angie-la's picture

I clicked on the link, but it said the article link had expired.  It sounded like something I'd like to read (especially the sourdough part), do you know of another way to access the article?

Yerffej's picture
ehanner's picture

I don't want to hijack this thread and I have done a fair amount of digging on this subject so I will start a new thread with credible scientific info if you are interested.


Lady of the Lake's picture
Lady of the Lake

I am very interested in a new thread. I use sourdough everyday, and in unique ways. I use the starter as a coating for vegetables and seafood, for instance. Then finish it with soudough bread crumbs. Also berry and fruit cobblers. I just want to share, and to research the benefits.

Doc Tracy's picture
Doc Tracy

Could you please share how you use the sourdough for cobblers? I love baking cobblers and especially whole wheat cobblers. Sourdough whole wheat cobblers would be the bomb!!

By the way-this week I discovered a new use for the small amount of sourdough discards that I have-it makes a very popular treat in this house for my two dogs. Seems strange that they would like such a sour tasting treat but both the chihuahua and the doberman acted like they were getting hunks of steak! I figure the active live cultures should be good for their gut. Maybe cut down on some of the stinky doggy farts around this little RV. (which probably come from all the doggy cookies and fruit/veggie treats they both get, little spoiled stinkers!!)

prairiegal's picture

Hi, Eric.  I would be interested in the new thread, if you start one.  I'm one of those who tries to bake sourdough, wholegrain... but I'm only about halfway where I want to be.  I'd love to hear what you have learned.

Sam49's picture

I haven't yet read Graham's article, but we need to stick to facts.

If one can read the article and explain what is wrong with the methodology and/or interpretation of the data, then do so.  Ad hominem attacks are rather useless.

Often times scientific research disproves conventional wisdom.  Maybe Graham's research does and maybe it doesn't.  Hopefully we will see a credible scientific analysis of the article and presentation of viable / valid research that contradicts it if such is available.

I've done some reading that contains information that would seem to show that the conventional wisdom that whole wheat bread is vastly superior to white bread in all regards is not so clear cut.

For example, web pages written to provide food guidance to diabetics are rather universal in stating that the glycemic index of the two is close to identical usually being reported as about 75 for both.  (I am only talking about web pages that come from reliable sources like medical schools, professional health orgainzations, not Aunt Suzie's home made advice for diabetics.)  And some sources even give a 1-2 points higher (worse) glycemic index to whole wheat.

Each source that I read which also gave a score for sourdough bread gave it a glycemic index 40 or more points lower than regular bread - which means a really low score - this is extremely good/healthy for diabetics.

So with regard to impact on blood sugar levels, sourdough white flour bread would be better than conventionally baked (no delayed fermentation) brewer's yeast fermented whole wheat bread.

Edit:  Now I've looked for the article which was published in the British Journal of Nutrition, which is published by Cambridge University.  Graham is one of 6 co-authors of the article.  Are you going to attack the other 5?

And, the title of the article is:

The acute impact of ingestion of breads of varying composition on blood glucose insulin and incretins following first and second meals.

So, these results aren't unique to what others have found. 

Sometimes reporters who write for the popular press over simplify or mistate highly technical material that they read and/or discuss with specialists.

One can get all the fiber and vitamins that are present in whole wheat flour, but absent or reduced in white flour, from other food sources.  That doesn't mean you should do it, but you can.  I bake and eat bread for only about 2 - 4 meals a week, as my partner has some level of gluten intolerance.  I eat lots of beans, corn tortillas, quinoa, vegetables and fruit.  I far surpass my needed intake of fiber so most of my breads have limited amounts of straight whole wheat.   

I have a finer than usual mesh strainer.  I sometimes use it to approximate what Reinhart's BBA says the French call clear flour.  I then mix this into recipe's for 25 - 50 % of the flour.  The breads are lighter but still have some of the fiber and nutrients of whole wheat flour.

Many people talk about white flour as being like white sugar and whole wheat flour as having some different kind of, and superior, carbohydrates.  This is false.  Both flours have carbohydrate from the endosperm of the wheat berry.  It is the same carbohydrate.   White flour is made by ultra fine sifting of the milled wheat product which removes the bran and the germ.   Some white flour is bleached and some is enriched, but basic white flour is simply a result of sifting.

I recently used Google scholar and did some research on sourdough and glutenin, the part of wheat that triggers celiac disease response and other gluten intolerace reactions.  There is scholarly research done in many different countries showing that some, NOT ALL, of the lactobacilli in sourdough cultures, consume high percentages of the glutenin when there are lengthy (24hr.) fermentations. 

Absent rather complicated and expensive testing, we can't know what specific strains of lactobacilli are in our own home raised cultures.   Therefore, we should refrain from making overgeneralizations and claiming that celiac sufferers and other gluten intolerant people can safely eat sourdough bread.

Sourdough with a long fermentation and a high % of starter in the dough will have significantly reduced glutenin and that is about as far as we can go.

Hopefully Graham will do some research and avail himself of this body of research rather than reinventing the wheel.



Columbia, MD


susanvan's picture

I agree, think its a spammer



Futterbudget's picture

The article was interesting, but I'd like to know why they used "whole wheat" flour, which seemed to be only white flour with some bran and germ added back in. Personally, I find it hard to believe that freshly ground whole wheat flour wouldn't make more flavorful and nutritious loaves than the white.

But it's good to know that the fermenting is doing some good anyway!


Sam49's picture

Major Edit - I HAVE, not have not ( a really goofy typo),  downloaded and read the original research article that is the underlying basis of this thread.  Not the article linked in the original post, but the research report in the British Journal of Nutrition ( a professional research journal ) that contained the original research that was discussed in the linked article that is no longer available.

There is no basis for stating that they used white flour with germ and bran added back in while doing the research.

Neither the word germ nor bran appear at any point in the journal article reporting the research that is the basis of this discussion.

The article is NOT an attack on WW bread nor does it have a statement that it doesn't have health benefits.

It is about insulin response and what is good for diabetics to eat.

The chemical composition of freshly milled whole wheat flour and commercial WW flour such as KA are essentially the same.

The freshly milled might taste a bit better, but both have the same carbohydrates derived from the endosperm of the of wheat berries.

This is the same endosperm that provides the carbohydrates in white flour.

The article is about insulin reactions to various types of bread - so the fact that the white & whole wheat breads have the same carbohydrate source - the endosperm -  is the reason for the similar insulin results.

However, the yeast and/or the lactobacilli in the sourdough break the original carbohydrates into other carbohydrates that are digested differently by the body.  This is the basis of the different glycemic indices for sourdough bread.  The longer fermentation process and the opportunity for more enzymatic activity also is supposed to modify the carbohydrates.

The lactobacilli in sourdough also break down some of the glutenin protein that triggers the celiac response, but not necessarily enough for all celiacs to safely eat wheat bread.

This research article does NOT assert that there could be other advantages to whole wheat bread.

It is clear that neither commercial yeasted WW bread nor commercial yeasted white bread are good things for diabetics to eat due to their high glycemic index - they have essentially the same rather high glycemic index and load.

Sourdough bread made only from white flour has a much lower glycemic index and would be a much better food item for a diabetic - the referenced research confirms in more detail the mechanism by which this occurs.

Sourdough made from whole wheat would most likely be better  than commercially yeasted whole wheat bread.

I hope this edited post is more clear.


nicodvb's picture

it's OT, but isn't gliadin (instead of glutenin) the cause of concern in celiac people?

Sam49's picture

Yes, that is correct.  I didn't go back and look at the journal articles that I had read on this subject and misremembered which one it was.

I tried to edit my post but the software wouldn't allow it - maybe because I'd edited it once already.

Thanks for catching that error.

Your point still is about a health benefit of sourdough and the general point is right but I erred nonetheless in describing it.

So, I don't really think your post is OT.

It is good to get the details right.





dexter's picture

This makes things much more clear. Thank you for taking the time to write it.

dexter's picture

health benefits of sourdough/whole-wheat is no longer available.