Scientists have investigated whether wheat germ supplements can result in less insulin resistance and better heart and liver function.
The consequences of the Western diet which is high in fat and sugar go well beyond weight gain and obesity. Continually consuming high amounts of simple sugars and saturated fats are implicated in the development of insulin resistance. When fat abnormally accumulates in the heart, liver, or muscle, the body has difficulty using insulin to metabolize glucose. This explains the high incidence of diabetes among those in the obese population. Recently, researchers investigated whether wheat germ supplements can offer any help.
Wheat germ has been bruited about for decades as a “wonder supplement.” Its anti-oxidant properties supposedly protect our tissues from free-radical damage and help mitigate the effects of obesity. Some of the evidence on these effects remains anecdotal at best, but researchers are now quantifying how wheat germ supplements may actually be good for the body.
In a recent US laboratory experiment, rats were fed high-fat and sucrose (HFS) diets, in proportions similar to the common Western diet. The subjects were then randomly divided, where one group’s diet was supplemented with wheat germ, and the other was not. Measurements in body weight and fat content, as well as blood and cell markers for insulin and cardiac mitochondria, were taken throughout a 12-week period.
These researchers found that after the study period rats whose diets were supplemented with wheat germ not only weighed less than the control group but also harbored less fat in their hearts and livers. Significant reductions in the serum insulin levels were also seen in this supplemented population. Moreover, measuring the mitochondrial markers in the hearts and livers of these rats show fewer stress factors in the cells, which may indicate better cardiac and hepatic function. The results were recently published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
Studies like these are important because of the ongoing discussions about nutritional supplements and whether they do deliver their promised benefits. When science can effectively validate (or negate) these claims, better information indeed can help us make better choices about our health. And while reducing the fat and sugar from your diet remains your best bet for health, this study shows that perhaps supplementing it with wheat germ may not be bad either.
Written by Jay Martin, M.D.
Ojo, et. Al. “Wheat germ supplementation alleviates insulin resistance and cardiac mitochondrial dysfunction in an animal model of diet-induced obesity”. British Journal of Nutrition 2017. 118, 241-249.