Fermented wheat germ was shown to improve quality of life in cancer patients. More studies are needed.
Fermented wheat germ extract (WGE) was developed by Mate Hidvegi, a Hungarian chemist, in the 1990s. It should not be confused with wheat germ oil. WGE is used as a dietary supplement by cancer patients in Hungary to improve quality of life. Laboratory studies show that WGE may have anticancer properties. Results from some clinical trials suggest WGE improves quality of life, but cancer patients should consult their physicians before taking WGE.
WGE was shown to improve quality of life in cancer patients. More data are needed to establish its use.
Animal studies show that WGE is beneficial, but human data are lacking.
Data from test tube and observation studies show that WGE can regulate the immune system.
Do Not Take If
You are pregnant or nursing.
You had an organ or tissue transplant.
You have bleeding, ulcers of the stomach and intestine, or severe absorption problems.
You have sensitivity to gluten.
You are fructose intolerant.
You are having barium X-ray contrast tests. Discontinue 2 days before and after test.
Mild and infrequent side effects include diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
Wheat germ extract may have estrogen receptor activity. Patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should consult with a physician before using WGE.
Fermented wheat germ extract (WGE) was developed in the 1990s by Hungarian chemist Mate Hidvegi. It should not be confused with wheat germ oil. WGE is used as a dietary supplement by cancer patients in Hungary to improve quality of life (QoL). Results from in vitro studies show that WGE has anticancer (1)(2)(3)(4)(5)(18)(19), antimetastatic (6)(20), and immunomodulatory (2)(7) effects. Although it appears to increase estrogen receptor (ER) activity, WGE enhanced efficacy of tamoxifen, an ER antagonist, in ER+ breast cancer cells (8) as well as cisplatin in ovarian cancer cell lines (5). Animal models suggest WGE can reduce cardiovascular symptoms due to chronic hypertension, diabetes, and obesity (9), mitigate symptoms associated with lupus (10), and that its antitumor effect is comparable to other endocrine treatments (11).
Data from pilot studies indicate a beneficial role for WGE in patients with colorectal cancer (12) and in reducing treatment-associated febrile neutropenia in pediatric cancer patients (13). It also prolonged survival of patients with melanoma when used with chemotherapy (14)(15). However, these effects must be confirmed by large-scale, well-designed clinical trials. Because it potentiates estrogen receptor activity, patients with hormone-sensitive cancers should use WGE with caution.
Mechanism of Action
Benzoquinone compounds are thought to be the active components of WGE (5). In vitro, WGE attenuates cell cycle progression from G2-M to G0-G1 phase, reduces ribonucleotide reductase activity (3)(4), and stimulates immune function via increased natural killer (NK) cell activity and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) expression (16)(17). It also increases tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and cytokine production by activating metabolic pathways involved in tumor cell death (14). In other experiments, WGE demonstrated cytotoxic effects on human lymphoma cells by inducing apoptosis (4) and against ovarian cancer cells via poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP)-1 and PARP-12 expression (5). It was also shown to regulate tumor cell proliferation by inhibiting glycolysis and pentose cycle enzymes (19), and induce apoptosis through caspase-3-mediated PARP cleavage (7).
Recent studies reported that WGE-treated human cancer cells had significantly lower levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEG) and Cox-2 mRNA and protein levels (both markers of angiogenesis) compared to untreated cells (21). WGE also demonstrated cytostatic and growth delay effects associated with impaired glucose utilization resulting in autophagy in human cancer cells (22); and was found effective in inducing mobilization and homing of CD34(+) stem cells to the myocardial tissue, which may help stem cell-based regeneration of infarcted myocardium (23).
Pregnant and nursing women.
Patients with hormone-sensitive cancers, as it may have estrogen-receptor activity.
Patients with organ or tissue transplants.
Patients with bleeding gastric or duodenal ulcers, enteritis/colitis, or malabsorption syndrome.
Patients with sensitivity to gluten and those with fructose intolerance.
The manufacturer recommends discontinuing Avemar usage 2 days before barium X-ray contrast examinations and resume 2 days after procedure. (8)