All grains contain peptides that mimic morphine or endogenous opioid substances. This is where I deal with my latest loaf craving. Get your bread-based exorphin fix here.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Some Half-Rye Pup Loaves

49% Rye Pup-sized loaves

I've been working nights again, all weekend, and had just enough bread to get me through it.  Baking sourdough bread while working nights is always a scheduling problem.   Fortunately, with refrigeration, you can pretty much do anything.  If you can put up with substandard loaves.

  • Friday: worked all night
  • Saturday: slept till late afternoon.  Refreshed sourdough.  Worked all night.
  • Sunday: mixed dough, refrigerated it, slept. Woke 6 hours later, kneaded, divided, formed, refrigerated. Worked all night.
  • Monday: Dough went directly into preheated oven from refrigerator.  Took bread out, slept.  Woke up, ate some bread.  With some of the new jam my wife just made while I was sleeping.  Yum.

This bread is made with 49% Rye, 51% WW Flour, 5% wheat germ, 2% salt, 70% hydration -- and 5% more hydration with kefir water, to bring it up to 75%.  After baking, I immediately painted some butter on top to glaze and soften the crust.

1000g of flour, about half of it rye, is divided 4 ways to make Pup loaves

Scored 2 of the 4 loaves.

All four tiny loaves fit in a roasting pan

Tiny aluminum pans are a cute size for pup loaves.  All four will fit at the same time into a standard roasting pan, for both proofing and baking.

The bread is okay, nothing special.  It has a slightly cake-like crumb, dense, moist, especially when the bread is less than a day old.  Rye is better the second and third day anyway.

The breads all have stress marks in the sides of the loaves which to me indicates uneven baking temperatures, or problems during proofing (probably related to the too-quick temperature changes of refrigeration).  This is not a technique I would recommend for frequent use, but for me, when working nights, it got the job done.  On the other hand, it was so ridiculously easy to make, there is no excuse not to have some rye bread on hand always.

Question: if the loaf is smaller and denser, do you eat less of it?  

I can eat two thin slices of this without batting an eye; four slices and I'm full.  These little loaves are not much bigger in size than 2 buns, but they are loaded with fiber, and they fill you up.  Don't let the small size fool you.  It looks like this is a quickbread, something you could munch up at tea.  It won't happen.

Making a rye bread -- even this one that is not quite half rye -- made me curious about rye again.

Researching Rye
I've just noticed that PubMed has an autofill search category called "Bread Cancer".  Currently there are 18 pages of results (but it will ask if you've made a mistake, and will suggest 'breast cancer' as a possible alternative to your search).  I'm often found perusing the latest studies that discuss links between whole grains and health (including cancer prevention); but today I'm mostly interested in what studies have been done linking the specific grain of Rye in bread and cancer.  

I've come to the current PubMed listings (well, some of them that were delivered up to me by its search engine, anyway), a sort of snapshot of this time and place and the cumulative research that has been done, and I've asked: Are rye breads better for you, if you are worried about cancer?

In a word: "Yes."  
Hedging that, I'd say: "Yes, probably."  
Reading the latest scientific literature, though, you'd have to say: "Well, maybe."

And that's the way it is, with nutrition research.  It is very frustrating, indeed.  There are so many vested interests, so many ill-conceived studies, so much half-truth, so much theorizing that gets in the way of fact, it makes finding truth really tough.

Prostate Cancer
For example, here is a study from Iceland: Torfadottir, J. et al. (2012) "Rye bread consumption in early life and reduced risk of advanced prostate cancer".  Cancer Causes Control. 23(6). pp. 941-50  This study was performed by food questionnaires, which I feel are notoriously unreliable.  But the rather high statistical results are pretty clear: eating rye bread in your adolescence can significantly reduce your risk of developing prostate cancer.  Eating it at other times in your life seems to make no difference.

But another earlier study from Denmark said there was no correlation (and the tests of this study, taking place over 12 years, looked at all whole grain consumption, but also specifically at rye and oatmeal): Egeberg R. et al. (2011) "Intake of whole-grain products and risk of prostate cancer among men in the Danish Diet, Cancer and Health cohort study".  Cancer Causes Control. 22(8). pp. 1133-9.  In other words, there is no increased or decreased risk from eating these things.

A study (this one has its entire text online Landberg, R. (2010). "Rye whole grain and bran intake compared with refined wheat decreases urinary C-peptide, plasma insulin, and prostate specific antigen in men with prostate cancer." 140(12) pp 2180-6) studied rye and prostate cancer and found something curious.  It was found that rye, if eaten as a whole grain, will reduce PSA (Prostate Specific Antigen) concentration.  Men who were diagnosed with prostate cancer (and who have elevated PSA) were given lots of whole grain rye products, and their PSA went down, indicating a slowing of the progression of the disease.  The authors suspect that this is an effect of a decreased exposure to insulin (increased insulin would cause the cancer cells to grow faster) -- because they were comparing the whole rye to whole wheat products, and the lower insulin response to rye was also noticeable.  

But speaking of reducing insulin response, Giles, G. et al. (2006) "Dietary carbohydrate, fibre, glycaemic index, glycaemic load and the risk of postmenopausal cancer" Int J Cancer 118(7) pp. 1843-7 found that neither Glycaemic index (GI) nor Glycaemic Load (GL) were good indicators that cancer might occur; but they also found that "increased intake of fibre and carbohydrate may be associated with the diagnosis of cancers of more favourable prognosis."

Of course, these researchers were not looking at prostate cancer, but cancers affecting women.

Breast Cancer
Adlercreutz, H (1998) "Epidemiology of phytoestrogens" Bailleres Clin Endocrinol Metab 12(4) pp. 605-23 determined that"Breast cancer has been found to be associated with low lignin levels" in many western countries, and that a high consumption of whole-grain rye bread provides these lignans.

Adlercreutz furthermore studied rye for its increased fiber and bioactive compounds Adlercreutz, H. (2010) "Can rye intake decrease risk of human breast cancer?" Food Nutr Res. 54.  This is a review of research (as I am doing here, only Adlercreutz's was far more extensive), and the conclusion reached: it is a very complex thing to study, there are conflicting reports, but that in theory, wholegrain rye should reduce risk for cancer, and that some studies support this theory.

But an earlier study by Egeberg R. et al. (2009) "Intake of whole grain products and risk of breast cancer by hormone receptor status among postmenopausal women" Int J Cancer 124(3) pp. 745-50 says that there is no relationship between using whole grain products and the risk of breast cancer.

While Hanf, V and Gonder, U (2005) "Nutrition and primary prevention of breast cancer: foods, nutrients and breast cancer risk" Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 123(2) pp 139-49  say in their abstract that "there is  no need to adopt a foreign dietary plan in order to protect oneself against BC" (Breast Cancer); they also say that "Lignans from traditionally made sourdough rye bread, linseed/flaxseed and berries are local sources of potentially cancerprotective phyto-estrogens".  

Colorectal Cancer
The free online text of Egeberg R. (2010) "Intake of wholegrain products and risk of colorectal cancer in the Diet, Cancer and Health cohort study" Br J Cancer 103(5). pp. 730-4 made the startling discovery that wholegrain bread, especially wholegrain rye bread, will reduce colorectal cancer in men -- but the same was not true for women, for whom no relationship was found between the cancer and wholegrain.  How it works, therefore, is still a mystery, as the proposed mechanisms -- increased fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals -- should work for both sexes.  I would conjecture that certain phytates are estrogen-like, which might explain some gender differences, although the reality of the problem is going to be a lot more complicated.

It may not be obvious, but there are differences in the way men and women metabolize plant foods, as Deneo-Pellegrini's team (Deneo-Pellegrini, H. et al. (2002) "Plant foods and differences between colon and rectal cancers" Eur J Cancer Prev 11(4) pp 369-75) discovered by examining patients in Uruguay.  Eating more fruits and vegetables protects men from colorectal cancer, but statistically speaking, the same can't be said for women.  The authors of the study concluded in their abstract that "this is, at least in part, due to the high risk associated with bread intake in this gender."  I take this to mean that women don't eat as much bread, but men do; and if you eat bread, you better damn well also eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, or else your risk for colorectal cancers are going to go up.  The gender nutritional differences may in this study be reduced to socio-economic variables: men take sandwiches to work outside the home; women are trying to eat fewer carbs.  I'm not sure I buy that simple an explanation, but there might be something to it.

Korpela in Finland (Korpela J. (1992) "Fecal bile acid metabolic pattern after administration of different types of bread" Gastroenterology 103(4) pp. 1246-53) studied the faeces of 12 women who ate different kinds of bread, and found that "faecal bile acids" (which "have been suggested to be associated with increased risk of colorectal cancer") have a much lower concentration with a diet of rye bread.  It was felt that this is because rye has more acids (compared to wheat) in a form that can react with gut alkali and saponify (convert into soap).

The EU has done a lot of work investigating acrylamides, which are found every time there is a Maillard reaction (the darker the crust, the more acrylamide) and are now thought to be carcinogenic.  But in Boston, Mucci L. et al. (2006) "Prospective study of dietary acrylamide and risk of colorectal cancer among women" Int J Cancer 118(1) pp. 169-73 they found "no evidence that dietary intake of acrylamide is associated with cancers of the colon or rectum".  They also found that coffee and french fries contained more acrylamide than bread.

Renal Cancer
Then you hear of the report by Ramoner, R. et al. (2008) "Serum antibodies against Saccharomyces cerevisiae: a new prognostic indicator in metastatic renal-cell carcinoma" Cancer Immunol Immunother 57(8) pp.1207-14, which tells the story of patients already diagnosed with renal cell carcinoma (RCC).  Their blood was tested for food-specific antibodies, and it was discovered that those with high level of antibodies against common baker's yeast (Saccharmyces cerevisiae), and another bread component (unnamed in the abstract), died sooner than patients with low levels of this antibody.  This is somewhat startling, when combined with other studies that suggest wheat breads may be linked directly to renal cell carcinoma (for example, Bravi F et al (2007). "Food groups and renal cell carcinoma: a case-control study from Italy" Int J Cancer 120(3). pp. 681-5, which showed "a diet rich in refined cereals and poor in vegetables may have an unfavourable role on RCC").

So unbelievable was it that bread might be linked to RCC, commentators soon hypothesized that it was due to mycotoxins, not the grain itself  Galvano, F. (2007) "Cereals consumption and risk for renal cell carcinoma: can be hypothesized a role of mycotoxins?" Int J Cancer 121(9) pp. 2116-7.

A study of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) discovered that the highest dietary nitrite intake was associated with increasing risk (of NHL), largely due to intakes of bread and cereal sources of nitrite.

Exposure to nitrates (NO3) and nitrites (NO2) has also been linked to pancreatic cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer and thyroid cancer, according to the TEACH Chemical Summary (rev 5/22/07) "Nitrates and Nitrites. TEACH Chemical Summary: U.S. EPA, Toxicity and Exposure Assessment for Children's Health"

Nitrates are commonly put into processed meat as preservatives, and these producers still dispute some of the findings.  I have heard it said that some commercial breads and cereals include nitrate as a preservative (and/or volume enhancer), and it may also be in some flour.  But it is also there naturally (it is in most fruit, vegetables and cereals), in the form of sodium nitrate -- perhaps in some cases, growing plants can uptake more because of the increased amount of nitrogen fertilizers used.  This is converted to sodium nitrite when we digest it.  This additive has been studied for a long time now.  In 1975, it was felt to be fairly benign; but it keeps popping up again in various studies like this one about Lymphoma.  

And it makes me wonder whether another reason why the developing picture that rye is better for you than wheat is due to the way in which both grains are normally leavened. Traditionally, rye's gluten is better developed in an acidic environment.  Rather than using only baker's yeast, sourdough techniques are more often used with rye.  And so with rye we have this double or triple whammy: often whole grain, sourdough fermentation (not as much baker's yeast), different gluten structure, different phytochemicals.

While studying the effects of some LAB (Lactic Acid Bacteria) to create substances that can be beneficial to health, Rizzello C. et al (2012) "Synthesis of the cancer preventative peptide lunasin by lactic acid bacteria during sourdough fermentation" Nutr Cancer 62(1) pp 111-20 found that certain LAB in some sourdoughs will make the peptide lunasin even while enzymes in the ferment break down the proteins.  Lunasin has been reported to reduce inflammation that is linked to diabetes, heart disease and stroke by reducing interleukin 6 -- and because it inhibits toposomerase 2, an enzyme used as a cancer marker, it is considered to have anti-cancer effects.  Lunasin has previously been found in soy. Galvez, A. (2001) "Chemopreventive property of a soybean peptide (lunasin) that binds to deacetylated histones and inhibits acetylation. Cancer Res 61(20). 7473-8 and with its appearance now in some sourdoughs, it is thought that these LAB may be added to some commercial breads to turn them into so-called 'functional foods'.

Or here's a thought: why not just make true, fermented, sourdough bread instead of that extruded stuff in plastic bags that is called bread in every supermarket?

Whole Grain Biomarkers
Anna-Maria Linko has done some work with Alkylresorcinols (AR) which are found in whole grain rye and wheat. She found in general that ingesting rye will cause the plasma levels to increase more than ingesting wheat; and she says AR levels are thus a biomarker enabling scientists to measure whole grain diet without having to resort to food questionnaires, which are frequently fudged.

Later, she and Adlercreutz studied the way AR actually changes the membranes of our red blood cells, and she conjectured that ongoing levels of whole grain intake were necessary to maintain the AR alteration of the blood.  She further speculated what this alteration of the cells actually did: altering the membrane can alter the cells "function", its "permeability", and the "activities of membrane-bound enzymes".    In other words, she doesn't know how they have beneficial effects -- only that if you eat whole-grain products, you have a lower risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some cancer.  Yet the anti-oxidant function of the AR was downplayed. Linko, A and Adlercreutz, H. (2005) "Whole-grain rye and wheat alkylresorcinols are incorporated into human erythrocyte membranes" Br J Nutr 93(1). pp. 11-3.

Cardiovascular Risk
Finally, although it doesn't discuss cancer, but rather cardiovascular risk, I want to speak of one of the most curious studies I've recently seen.  Drogan D. et al. (2007) "A food pattern predicting prospective weight change is associated with risk of fatal but not with nonfatal cardiovascular disease" J Nutr 137(8) pp.1961-67 

A rather large (n= 27, 548 individuals) nutritional study has been conducted in Europe: EPIC (European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition).  Study participants had their food patterns examined, and were then placed on a diet corresponding to "a high consumption of whole grain bread, fruits, fruit juices, grain flakes and/or cereals, and raw vegetables and low consumption of processed meat, butter, high-fat cheese, margarine, and meat other than poultry" -- a diet that was predicted to result in weight loss.  It was felt that excess weight was one of the indicators of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, and that reducing weight on this diet would be beneficial.

Data collected from the study can now be examined in various ways.  Drogan's team looked at morbidity and mortality and discovered the startling fact that a significant number of people who went on this diet died of cardiac events.  But curiously, the diet was not significantly associated with non-fatal cardiac events. The authors of the study said that this is "difficult to explain"  and "hard to understand".  It would appear that there is a "disproportionate influence of unknown factors", and they want this to be studied further.  

Yes please.

Conclusions: The Three Things I've Learned
So what are we to take away from all this?  What have we learned?

One of my favourite characters in  G. R. R. Martin's fantasy series "A Song of Ice and Fire" is Arya Stark (and of course, these days one can not conjure up Arya's image without seeing the face of Maisie Williams who plays Arya in the TV adaptation).  Arya has many teachers in the books, one of whom sends her out daily into the world to learn three things before returning.  And it could be any three things, as long as when she returns, she knows them.  She is required to state those "three things" as a truth, not as a supposition or the recounting of hearsay.  Sometimes she returns nightly with three new things.  Sometimes she does not return for a turn of the moon or longer.

What 3 things have you learned?
What an amazing way to school someone.  And what a folly our own education system shows itself to be by comparison.  And our entire system of nutritional research, for that matter.

I've been blogging about bread, baking bread, eating bread I've baked, for over three years now.  I've been researching the health benefits of whole grains as I go, trying to learn new things.  Yet what can I honestly say I know about bread today?  What three things have I learned that I can state as a truth? 

It is still all conjecture.  But here goes:

  1. It is generally assumed whole grains are better for you than refined grains.  Reduced risk of diabetes, reduced risk of certain cancers, reduced risk of heart disease (compared to what, one has to ask?  Compared to those who eat no grains, or compared to those who eat only processed grains?)  Yet no one knows why.  Some say it is the fibre, some say it is the lignans, or phytochemicals.  There are still a lot of mysteries here.  And the answers are not forthcoming. I don't know the reason, but I suspect it is because those who study these things are funded by lobby groups and marketing boards of the grain merchants, and they don't want the potential dangers of the products they are promoting to be generally known.  
  2. Sourdough fermentation is better for you than other forms of leavening. But those who have sought to learn why are not so much interested in sourdough as they are in removing parts of that natural fermentation to add them to other unnatural processes of bread production on an industrial scale.  The mysteries multiply because there will always be local variations in sourdough cultures.  You will never know exactly what is in your particular sourdough.  But you can be assured that what is in your particular fermenting environment is prebiotic.  The little critters that ferment your dough (the yeasts, the bacteria) are taking some nutrients but they are providing you with much more nutrition than you originally would have had.  You can trust them if you work with them.
  3. Refined flour and processed food that is made from it (like bread) is ultimately bad for you.  A steady stream of white flour, white bread, will spike insulin levels and it is conjectured that this will eventually make the cells of the body resistant to insulin, resulting in type 2 diabetes.  Plus, processed grains have been linked to cardiovascular disease, heart disease, stroke, although the direct causal link has not been proven.  Furthermore, the way we have allowed grain marketers to promote "whole grain" and especially "whole wheat" is completely misleading to consumers, fostering a world of ignorance and dependence.  The way we mill flour these days takes so many nutrients out, the very best parts are missing.  And it is all allowable by law, so that wider distribution and centralized control (money in the hands of the few) is possible.  Governments make the law, and we elect the government, so who is ultimately responsible?

So what about rye?

  • Rye comes to us usually as a milled whole grain.  
  • Breads with rye are usually made with sourdough or sourdough-like techniques.  
  • Rye doesn't spike insulin levels to the same extent that processed wheat flour does.  

Rye has its own taste, its own feel, its own purpose.  If we eat bread, we would do ourselves good to increase the amount of rye we eat.

Time for me to grow my own rye.  My little garden of anarchy.

Notes to Myself
  • Paranoid conspiracy theory time: Maybe things about grains are known, but are being kept secret from the main populace, by government, industry and agriculture suppliers all colluding together. They know these things are bad for us, but they want to keep us enslaved to them. There is big money involved in keeping us enslaved. Virtually everything we eat is built on grain. It makes sense that the ones who control the distribution of it and make a profit from it want to keep secret how truly bad it is for us.  That's just plain paranoia, right?
  • Still, cracks are appearing in the conspiracy. A picture is emerging in the various studies of whole grains and how they work to increase our health. By insinuating themselves into our bloodstream, whole grains deliver a payload of hormone-like biochemicals to various parts of our body, and thereby they change our body's chemistry.   
    It sounds scary.

    But wait a minute: virtually the same thing can basically be said of all nutrients from food.  That's what food is: it changes your body chemistry.
  • I don't believe in the conspiracy theory, but thinking along those lines can be a good thing if it increases our awareness of what we eat and increases our responsibility to affect change for the better.

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