The Alberta Wheat Commission (AWC) is funding research to see if the sourdough bread fermentation process can reduce or eliminate wheat components suspected to cause wheat sensitivity.

The project will look at the sourdough bread fermentation process that breaks down proteins and carbohydrates in wheat flour.

Chair of the AWC Research Committee, Terry Young, said new research suggests that apart from celiac disease, wheat protein may not be the culprit.

"In Europe, the longer fermentation process, or better called sourdough fermentation, is more common over there," said Young. "They report that incidents of non-celiac sensitivity, which is what the project is all about, are actually lower in Europe."

He adds this project will focus on the processing side, but in the future they may be able to look into developing wheat varieties for wheat sensitive individuals.

The research will be led by food microbiologist at the University of Alberta, Dr. Michael Gänzle, who said the use of sourdough bread in industrial baking reduces ingredient costs and can improve the quality of bread as well.

“There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that sourdough bread is tolerated by consumers with non-celiac wheat or gluten intolerance but the science is not available to back up these claims,” said Dr. Gänzle. “We aim to determine whether fermentation reduces or eliminates individual wheat components that are known or suspected to cause adverse effects.”

It's important to note this research won't create a product acceptable for the estimated one per cent of the population who suffer from celiac disease.

The AWC is collaboratively funding the project with the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission, and the Minnesota Wheat Research Promotion Council.

Young adds this is the first time they've had a cross-border counterpart in funding research.

The AWC will contribute $70,000, the Saskatchewan Wheat Development Commission will contribute $57,250, and the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotional Council will contribute $20,000.

They will report the results of the research when the study is completed in 2021.


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