Researchers from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto are studying the microbiota of wheat in order to, through fermentation of this cereal, create a new food that combines “health and taste” in the same recipe.
In a statement, the institution adds that, despite being fundamental, wheat is, at the same time, seen as “a villain” per “cause less desirable changes in the body”such as food allergies and intolerances.
“At issue is the composition of wheat, which may be modulated by the microbiota [flora intestinal]”he stresses, clarifying that, within the framework of the European Wheatbiome project, researchers will look into the microbiota to “come up with a new food”based on wheat fermentation.
In a first phase, the team will study the wheat microbiota in the soil and in the plant to try to understand how immunogenicity is affected [capacidade de desencadear uma resposta imunitária no organismo] and the nutritional quality of this cereal.
Cited in the statement, the researcher and co-coordinator of the project, Rosa Perez-Gregório, clarifies that protein expressions in a plant can “depend on the crop, the variety of wheat and where it is produced”.
“The same variety of wheat produced in different places, for example in Portugal and the Netherlands, may have different nutritional quality indicators and immunogenic protein quantity. What we want to evaluate is how the microbiota and the interaction of the soil microbiota and the plant can modulate this process”exemplifies the researcher of the Chemistry and Technology Network (REQUIMTE).
Also mentioned in the statement, researcher Susana Soares says that after being characterized, the team can use the “whole plant microbiota or parts of it to create a new food”.
Highlighting that wheat is “one of the most sustainable crops that exists”the researchers claim to be able to “make it even more sustainable”. In addition to making this cereal more sustainable, another of the project’s objectives is to use the microbiota to regulate agricultural practices, passing this knowledge on to farmers and other entities involved in the wheat production chain.
“If we know what are the best biotic and abiotic conditions that affect the microbiota and the quality of wheat, we can try to have wheat grown in other countries in Europe, which helps to reduce dependence on Ukraine by promoting local and more sustainable agriculture.”add the researchers.
Interaction with our microbiota
At the same time, the project also aims to reintroduce the by-product of the new food into the food chain, such as animal feed.
During the project, studies will be carried out in vitro to understand which are the best growing conditions and the best varieties to bet on, and subsequently a pre-selection of the products that pass to the in vivo.
In addition to the soil and the plant, the human microbiota will also be studied. “We want to see how the bacteria that are inside that food interact with our organism and with our own microbiota”, explains researcher Rosa Perez-Gregório.
The Wheatbiome project is funded by more than five million euros by the European Commission and will be developed over the next four years. In addition to REQUIMTE from the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto and GreenUPorto, the project also includes the School of Medicine of the Universidade Nova de Lisboa and 13 European entities from countries such as Spain, Lithuania, Holland, Poland and Hungary.