Researchers have produced a flour claimed to produce white bread with double the fibre content of a traditional loaf.

A group of international scientists led by UK operations Rothamsted Research and the John Innes Centre have identified the parts of the wheat genome that control the fibre content of white flour.

This has been used to develop a new white flour that they have claimed produces a good-quality white loaf that could contain up to 2g of fibre in a slice compared with the 1g found in a standard white slice. Wholemeal bread has about 3g a slice.

Dr Alison Lovegrove of Rothamsted Research said the team had achieved the breakthrough by using the results of an earlier genetic screen of over 150 different wheat varieties from around the world.

“We knew that white flour made from one particular Chinese wheat variety, Yumai 34, was unusually high in fibre, but it’s not well suited for growing in the European climate,” she explained.

“Using conventional breeding techniques, we crossed this high-fibre trait into several other varieties. This allowed us to narrow down where in its genome the genes for high fibre are.”

Lovegrove added that the researchers had developed genetic markers that could be used by plant breeders to identify which individual wheat plants had the high-fibre genes.

“We hope to go on and identify further genes that increase fibre content, thereby providing plant breeders, millers and food producers with even more options.”

The team said high-fibre bread and other products made from white flour could be a staple within just five years, now that breeders have a new tool with which to screen wheat lines.

Government advice recommends adults eat 30g of fibre a day, but the average UK adult currently eats about 18g.

The study was a collaborative project with researchers from Rothamsted, the John Innes Centre and the University of Bristol in the UK, along with colleagues in Hungary, France and Turkey.

The study, Identification of a major QTL and associated molecular marker for high arabinoxylan fibre in white wheat flour, is published in journal PLUS ONE.