Alot more grain, alot less in it – Nutrients in wheat show steep decline over past 40 years
August 10, 2009
According to crop samples taken from a London area research station ranging from 1844 to the present day, the nutrient levels of wheat crops have been continually deteriorating since the late 1960s, when many farmers changed the variety of wheat they harvested.
Compared to the older crops, the recently harvested wheat plants hold 20-30 less zinc, iron, copper, and magnesium. The data is consistent with several other studies, including one done in 2006 by the USDA that listed a substantial decrease in iron, zinc, and selenium levels.
This is particularly sad since wheat is the principal food grain produced in the United States. Americans consume approximately 150 pounds of wheat per person per year, nearly 20% of the calories in an average U.S. adult meal plan come from non-organic, highly processed wheat flour.
“We can’t put it down to soil impoverishment, so my guess is that the nutrient decline is related to plant physiology,” said Rothamsted researcher Professor Steve McGrath.
Prof. McGrath said there has been little apparent interest in the finding, and making a case for further research in a restricted funding environment is a long and complicated process with no guarantee of success. However, he understands that micronutrient deficiency, zinc and iron in particular, are implicated in health problems across the developed and developing worlds alike.
“People are suffering growth, health and effects on mental development from lack of zinc and iron,” he said.
Dr Carole Hungerford, author of the Australian medical nutrition textbook “Good Health in the 21st Century”, wrote that zinc is an essential nutrient for fertility, bone and joint health and immunity. It is also essential for the structural integrity of the DNA molecule, which has led some researchers to speculate that zinc deficiency may contribute to cancer.
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