Oh, white bread — the super star of lunchbox sandwiches and chauffer of sliced salami. Your mom probably packed you one too many turkey and cheeses between two of these starchy slices in your younger days; then you grew older and wiser and learned that whole wheat was the way to go.
According to your health teachers, nutrition guidelines, and the internet, white bread causes a plethora of unappealing body side effects: cellulite! Belly fat! Weight gain! You’ve learned to avoid that stuff like the plague.
What if I told you all that fearmongering was based on something that might not be true? You could have been chowing on plain old fluffy white bread this whole time.
The problem, allegedly, with white bread is that it contains quickly digestible sugars and refined flour. “When a grain is refined,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, author of Belly Fat Diet For Dummies, “such as in the making of flour for white bread, the outermost and innermost layers of the grain are removed. This removes the fiber and some (25 percent) protein, leaving behind the starch.” That starchy inside is so easy for the body to digest that it just gets it all done at once. When all the carbohydrates are so quickly digested, the body’s blood sugar spikes. Spiked blood sugar often results in weight gain when the excess is stored in the body as fat.
So if white bread didn’t spike blood sugar, it would be totally fine for regular consumption — and wouldn’t lead to any extraordinary level of weight gain.
A study was recently released in the academic journal Cell Metabolism revealing that different people have different reactions in blood sugar levels when consuming white and whole wheat bread.
Eran Segal, one of the senior authors of the study, explains, “There were no clinically significant differences between the effects of these two types of bread on any of the parameters we measured.” They measured a lot of potential variables: fat and cholesterol levels, wakeup glucose levels, kidney and liver enzymes, several markers for inflammation and tissue damage, and even levels of the essential minerals calcium, iron, and magnesium. In addition, the participants’ microbiomes were monitored thoroughly before, during, and after the study.
Nothing measured showed a significant difference, despite the starchy slices some groups consumed. The team was stumped. How could there not be a difference? However, after looking more closely at the results obtained, it became clear that the reason there appeared to be no difference was because the results were split directly in half – they evened out when averaged across populations.
While about half of the participants experienced the expected larger spike in blood sugar after eating white bread than when they consumed a slice of whole wheat sourdough, the other half experienced something different.
The scientists’ conclusion stated that whether or not white bread is actually bad for you “depends on the person.”
Some people respond better to white bread while others react favorably to wheat. The methods by which the body processes wheat and white are different for different people; so, by cutting out white bread you could be doing more harm than good.
Or you could be completely on track.
Just as so many other nutritional discoveries have revealed, this study supports the idea that no two people should eat or need to eat the same way. Eran Elinav, a researcher in the Department of Immunology at the Weizmann Institute and another of the study's senior authors, explains, “To date, the nutritional values assigned to food have been based on minimal science, and one-size-fits-all diets have failed miserably.”
So put down the “One-Step Diet Guide” and pick up that slice of toast — whole wheat or not, your gut could react either way.