Melbourne: Australian scientists have claimed to have helped create wheat varieties that will reduce the risk of colon cancer in consumers.
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and University of Adelaide`s Waite Institute are collaborating to use these types of wheat in the development of new foods, including breads and cereals, that can improve bowel health.
The new wheats retain certain types of fibre and starch that are currently lost because of food processing.
Chief research scientist at CSIRO David Topping said some types of dietary fibre and resistant starch had been lost from the modern diet, increasing the risk of colon cancer and other health concerns.
"We`ve taken out what we call the soluble fibres and what`s called resistant starch," he said.
"The reason that we are putting them back is because they don`t feed us, they feed our bacteria."
Topping said there was more bacteria alive in the body, particularly in the bowel, than there were cells in the body.
"These bacteria metabolise the fibre and they produce compounds which promote the health of the bowel, the liver and indirectly the whole body," he said.
He further said the genetically modified wheat could be as close as two to three years from appearing on our shelves, because rigorous testing and development was still required.
Topping said up to 80 per cent of the deaths were preventable.
"A substantial part of that will be through the production of the grain," he said.
However, he said other lifestyle factors, including reduced smoking rates and better exercise, would also help.
He said much of the loss of fibre from modern Western diets had been through processing technologies.
"In the `50s the idea grew that people consuming traditional diets high in unrefined cereal foods did not seem to get diseases that weren`t there before," he said.
He said increasing fibre promoted regularity - it did not lower the risk of these other diseases.
Topping said some fibre-rich cereals were already being tested on animals at the CSIRO.
He said the research and continued development would allow certain products to be tailored to help prevent various health concerns, including high cholesterol.
However, he emphasised that before these products were used to make consumer foods, there had to be assurance they would work to promote human health.
"If we thought, for one moment, that any of these new cereals would not promote human health we would not be doing it," he said.