White bread may be healthier for you than whole wheat

Basically, white bread has been considered the enemy of the health-conscious for years. Sure, it tastes great, but it’s a pure carb, and has little to no nutritional value… But maybe it’s not getting a fair shake.

New research suggests that there is actually little difference between how whole wheat or white bread affect your body – and some people may react better to Wonder Bread than whole grain artisan sour dough.

Those are the findings from a new study published this week in the journal Cell Metabolism.

The participants in this study normally consumed about 10% of their calories from bread. Half were assigned to consume an increased amount of processed, packaged white bread for a week — around 25% of their calories — and half to consume an increased amount of whole wheat sourdough.

Then they were asked to abstain from eating bread for two weeks. After the break, the two groups switched. (The whole wheat group ate white bread, and the previous white bread eaters switched to whole wheat.)

Over the course of the study, researchers monitored many health effects on the participants including wakeup glucose levels; levels of the essential minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium; fat and cholesterol levels; kidney and liver enzymes; and several markers for inflammation and tissue damage. The investigators also measured the makeup of the participants’ microbiomes before, during, and after the study.

The results surprised even the researchers. Said one of the study’s senior authors, Eran Segal, “The initial finding, and this was very much contrary to our expectation, was that there were no clinically significant differences between the effects of these two types of bread on any of the parameters that we measured.”

Because it seemed so counter-intuitive that there were no health differences between the white bread and the whole wheat, researches took a deeper dive into the health numbers. What they found next was even more surprising.

While on average, the two groups had the same health effects regardless of bread type, that masked individual reactions. About half the people had a better response to the processed, white flour bread, and the other half had a better response to the whole wheat sourdough. The lack of differences was only seen when all findings were averaged together.

“The findings for this study are not only fascinating but potentially very important, because they point toward a new paradigm: different people react differently, even to the same foods,” said senior researcher Dr Eran Elinav.

So while food charts and health rules are good starting points for eating right, but this study serves as a reminder to listen to your body. If your gut feels better after eating white bread than whole wheat, go with it.

Dr. Elinav sums it up: “To date, the nutritional values assigned to food have been based on minimal science, and one-size-fits-all diets have failed miserably.”

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