June 17, 2004,
ARS News Service: Is your breakfast cereal
boring you? Or perhaps you're one of the millions of
Americans who must avoid bread products that contain
wheat, or the cereal proteins known as gluten. If so,
sorghum might be for you.
Agricultural Research Service scientists in Manhattan,
Kan., are trying to coax this lesser-known grain out of
its shell. Chemist Scott Bean at the ARS Grain Marketing
and Production Research Center is analyzing kernels of
food-grade sorghum in hopes of bringing into the mainstream
new products made from the nutty-tasting grain, such as
breads, waffles and noodles.
Why? Some varieties of sorghum represent a surprising
new source of cancer-fighting compounds. Such whole-grain
varieties contain high levels of phenols and tannins,
two plant compounds with a knack for mopping up cellular
byproducts called free radicals that can wreak havoc
on cell membranes and other delicate machinery within
the human body. Sorghum brans are also high in dietary
What makes sorghum attractive to many consumers, though,
is not so much what it contains, but what it's missing.
Because it lacks gluten--certain proteins present in
wheat and two closely related cereals, rye and barley--sorghum
is considered safe for the 1 to 2 million people in
the United States diagnosed with celiac disease, also
known as gluten intolerance.
Unfortunately, according to Bean, these gluten proteins
in grains, such as wheat, are what give dough made from
wheat flour its desired visco-elasticity.
By studying the function of sorghum proteins, Bean
aims to find cultivars that will lead to a good-tasting,
finely-textured sorghum bread. Bean is working with
collaborators from Ireland and Germany to see which
food-grade varieties produce a winning bread.
In addition to investigating which sorghum varieties
lend themselves to better loaves of bread, Bean and
colleagues at ARS' Grain Quality and Structure Research
Unit in Manhattan are researching optimal recipes for
baked goods, like waffles and cookies, made from the
grain. The researchers also hope to create a quick and
yummy breakfast food for those with gluten intolerance,
Read more about the researchers' sorghum efforts in
the June issue of Agricultural Research magazine, on
the web at: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jun04/cows0604.htm