Bread is, to put it scientifically, delicious. However, the debate over which breads are bad for you health-wise may have just gotten a little more complicated. A new study on whether white bread or sourdough is healthier shows that there’s no major distinction in the health properties between either. In other words, maybe we can all be free to bread as we please.
As reported by The Atlantic, sourdough bread has been thought in recent years to be a healthier alternative to white bread. Some studies have suggested that the microbes which give sourdough its tangy, distinctive taste also reap health benefits, like producing acids which prevent spikes in insulin. Sourdough’s “digestibility” is also touted as a reason it’s the better bread.
However, this new study from the Weizmann Institute of Science, lead by Israeli scientists Eran Segal and Eran Elinav, suggests there’s no significant difference between the effects white bread and sourdough have on the body. What’s even more interesting is that while some people’s blood sugar levels spiked more significantly after eating white bread than sourdough, other’s did the opposite. Meaning, determining which bread to be healthier could vary from person to person. Segal tells The Atlantic he has two explanations for his results: “One possibility is that the two breads induce exactly the same effect. The more intriguing possibility is that each bread induces different effects in different people.”
The study was conducted on a group of 20 people who had the honor and privilege of eating different kinds of bread in the name of science. Half the group spent a week eating white bread and then another week eating sourdough. The other half did the opposite, first eating sourdough for a week and then the white bread. Researchers measured different variables in the participants before and after each week of bread eating, checking things like weight, blood sugar, and cholesterol. In both groups, the kind of bread they ate did not appear to have any significant effect on any of the factors they measured.
Before you start stocking your pantries with white bread and sourdough galore, Susan Roberts, a professor of nutrition at Tufts University, finds the results dubious. Roberts, tells The Atlantic, “Of course you wouldn’t expect to see significant effects in one week, with a small amount of bread, in 20 people. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an effect. It just means this study was underpowered.” On a related note, if any scientists are looking to do another follow up study that involves eating lots of bread for days on end, hit me up please and thanks.
Given the impressive amount of bread we eat each year — it’s estimated bread is about ten percent of our diets — it makes sense that we’d want to make sure we’re stacking our sandwiches with the best possible option. There’s still a significant amount of data that suggest whole-grains are good for you. Multiple studies have associated eating more whole-grains, like whole-grain bread, can lead to lower risk of heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes. A study conducted last year by the Harvard School of Public Health found eating at least three servings of whole grains every day to be linked to lower risk of death from stroke and heart disease.
However, when it specifically comes to sourdough versus your standard white bread, perhaps you can just go with your gut. Unless you’re making a grilled cheese. Then, you best be blessed with some sourdough bread.