A study developed by researchers from CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP) demonstrated that regular consumption of wheat germ can contribute to an improvement in gastrointestinal health.
To reach this conclusion, scientists compared the effect of consuming bread enriched with 6 grams of wheat germ with the consumption of normal refined bread in two groups of healthy volunteers. The study followed good practices and therefore the participants did not know what type of bread they were consuming.
In an assessment of different physiological parameters, it was found that people who consumed bread enriched with wheat germ daily for 4 weeks had an improvement in the quality of life associated with a reduction in intestinal discomfort.
An improvement was also observed in the intestinal microbiota (the population of microorganisms that inhabit the intestine) through a clear increase in the number of two types of bacteria, Bacteroides and Bifidobacteria.
The presence of these two groups of bacteria in the intestine is associated with decreased inflammation and better gastrointestinal health. A reduction in the number of these bacteria is related to pathologies of the intestine.
“This study enhances the role of wheat germ, a by-product of the wheat milling industry, providing the basis for its use in foods intended for human consumption”, explains André Rosário, a researcher at CINTESIS / FMUP and first author of this study. Until now, wheat germ has been used mainly in animal feed.
This was an innovative study and, in addition to these results, explores and proposes the application of methods and approaches in the area of Health Technology Assessment in the development of health claims associated with functional foods.
Coordinated by Luís Azevedo (CINTESIS / FMUP) and Conceição Calhau (CINTESIS / NOVA Medical School), the study was part of the VALORINTEGRADOR project, financed by the Operational Programme “Competitiveness and Internationalization” and had the collaboration of the Faculty of Biotechnology of the Catholic University and the Centre of Biological Engineering of the University of Minho.
The investigation in this area should now proceed to support possible requests for health claims, to be submitted by the food industry to the European authorities (EFSA – European Food Safety Authority), using the same methodology, the Health Technology Assessment.