26. November 2020
One grain to rule them all

Einkorn, emmer and spelt. People with wheat intolerance are often recommended to eat these three ancient wheat varieties. But einkorn has one advantage.

The ancient wheat variety einkorn contains very little to no protein substances that trigger wheat intolerance.

There are very specific protein molecules in wheat known as alpha-amylase-trypsin inhibitors (ATI) that are presumed to cause the symptoms of wheat intolerance. They protect grains from being eaten by animals. But they also inhibit substances that the gut needs for digestion.


A research team in Munich has examined 40 modern and ancient wheat varieties to determine how much ATI they contain. They found no ATI in five of the eight einkorn samples they tested, and only very small amounts in the other three samples. But spelt and emmer were different. These two wheat varieties contained even more ATI than common wheat and durum wheat.


“We were somewhat surprised by the results”, says Katharina Scherf, a food chemist at the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology in Munich. Why? Compared to conventional wheat, all three ancient varieties – einkorn, spelt and emmer – were previously believed to be easier to digest. But in light of these results, einkorn appears to be the better choice for people with wheat intolerance.

More information on wheat intolerance can be found here.


Original study:

Geisslitz S. Targeted LC–MS/MS Reveals Similar Contents of α-Amylase/Trypsin-Inhibitors as Putative Triggers of Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity in All Wheat Species except Einkorn. J Agric Food Chem.2018, 66 (46) 12395–403


Additional sources

Olias G. ‘Warum Einkorn besser für Menschen mit Weizenunverträglichkeit sein könnte (Why einkorn may be better for people with wheat intolerance.)’ Press release of the Leibniz Institute for Food Systems Biology at the Technical University of Munich, 14 November 2018. Last retrieved online: 11 November 2020 (In German)