wheat germ activates neuropeptides, cytokines, and macrophages due to its anti-inflammatory properties

wheat germ

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is increasing globally without definitive pharmacological treatments. This study aimed to evaluate the clinical effects of wheat germ in NAFLD patients. Fifty participants were randomly assigned to receive 40 g of wheat germ or a placebo in a 12-week double-blind trial. Transient elastography (FibroScan) diagnosed NAFLD. After 12 weeks, the wheat germ group showed significant reductions in serum alanine aminotransferase, γ-glutamyltransferase, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and hepatic steatosis compared to the placebo group. Serum total antioxidant capacity levels significantly increased in the wheat germ group, and serum c-reactive protein levels significantly decreased. These findings suggest wheat germ may improve total antioxidant capacity, hepatic steatosis, serum cholesterol, triglycerides, alanine aminotransferase (ALT), and γ-glutamyltransferase (GGT) in NAFLD patients. 

Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a major health issue leading to complications like cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, liver transplantation, and mortality (Bellentani, 2017). NAFLD prevalence ranges from 20% to 30%, exceeding 90% in obese diabetic patients (Hardy et al., 2016). Rising obesity and diabetes rates, coupled with poor lifestyle choices, are projected to make NAFLD the leading cause of liver transplants (Mansour-Ghanaei et al., 2020; Yeh & Brunt, 2007). NAFLD is linked to subclinical cardiovascular disease markers such as atherosclerosis and increased carotid artery intimal medial thickness (Villanova et al., 2005). Excessive fat accumulation and insulin resistance contribute to NAFLD formation (Darand et al., 2018). Despite unclear pathogenesis, NAFLD is strongly associated with lipid accumulation, oxidative stress, inflammation, lipid peroxidation, and apoptosis (Buzzetti et al., 2016). With no definitive treatments, dietary interventions and efforts to reduce central obesity are key in managing NAFLD (Nascimbeni et al., 2013; Salehi-Sahlabadi et al., 2021).

Nutrition plays a crucial role in NAFLD prevention and management (Carr et al., 2016). Wheat germ, derived from milled flour, is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, protein, carotenoids, phytochemicals, tocopherols, folic acid, thiamine, iron, magnesium, and zinc (Brandolini et al., 2012). It has demonstrated beneficial effects on hypercholesterolemia, mental health, prostate cancer, and hemodialysis patients (Mohammadi et al., 2021; Rodionova et al., 2016; Weitzen et al., 2021; Zakaria et al., 2017). Mohammadi et al. (2021) found that wheat germ consumption significantly reduced stress and depression in type II diabetes patients. Fourteen weeks of wheat germ consumption showed long-term benefits for cholesterol levels and T2D and  hyperlipidemia management (Cara et al., 1992).

This is the first study to investigate the impact of wheat germ consumption on patients with NAFLD. This study aims to evaluate the potential benefits of wheat germ on lipid profiles, glycemic status, hepatic enzymes, hepatocyte apoptosis (Cytokeratin-18), inflammatory factors, total antioxidant capacity, and liver fibrosis in NAFLD patients.


wheat germ benefits

  • decrease fatty liver
  • improved liver enzymes
  • reduction liver inflammation
  • reduced oxidative stress
  • insulin reduction
  • improved triglycerides and cholesterol levels
  • lower fasting blood sugar; dose dependent
In this study, the reduction of ALT and GGT was significantly greater in the wheat germ group compared to the placebo group. FibroScan results also showed a significant reduction in hepatic steatosis in the wheat germ group. Previous studies have demonstrated that wheat germ oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, effectively reduces hepatic steatosis (Kobyliak et al., 2017) and protects against oxidative damage due to its antioxidant properties (Anwar & Mohamed, 2015). Additionally, wheat germ has shown anti-inflammatory effects and is rich in bioactive components (Atallahi et al., 2014; Karami et al., 2019; Weng et al., 2021).

Our results show that wheat germ’s antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, and hepatoprotective effects significantly impact NAFLD. Wheat germ oil (WGO) contains unsaturated fatty acids, vitamin E, tocopherols, carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, all with antioxidant properties crucial for combating reactive oxygen species (Ghafoor et al., 2017). WGO rapidly increases tissue vitamin E content, providing substantial protection against oxidative damage (Akool, 2019). It also protects against oxidative stress and hepatotoxicity induced by cyclosporine A (CsA) (Akool, 2015). Additionally, WGO, rich in linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids, lowers cholesterol levels (Leenhardt et al., 2008). Its anti-inflammatory properties activate neuropeptides, cytokines, and macrophages (Atallahi et al., 2014). Betaine in wheat germ inhibits the inflammatory response, improves insulin resistance, and alleviates liver oxidative stress by targeting molecular pathways like NF-κB, AMPK, PPARα/γ, LXRα, Akt, and TLR4 (Weng et al., 2021).

This study had limitations. Firstly, gold-standard liver biopsy results were unavailable; transient elastography, a reliable and noninvasive method, was used instead (Malekzadeh & Poustchi, 2011). Secondly, specific biomarkers for wheat germ consumption were not measured in serum and urine. Lastly, the three-month intervention period was insufficient to reflect the long-term effects of wheat germ consumption in NAFLD patients.

In conclusion, wheat germ consumption for 12 weeks significantly reduces inflammation, serum cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and improves antioxidant capacity, hepatic steatosis, ALT, and GGT in NAFLD patients. 


Abbreviations: ALT, alanine aminotransferase; AST, aspartate aminotransferase; BMI, body mass index; CAP, controlled attenuation parameter; CK-18, cytokeratin-18; FBS, fasting blood sugar; GGT, γ-glutamyltransferase; HDL-C, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol; hs-CRP, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein; LDL-C, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol; MET, metabolic equivalent of tasks; TC, total cholesterol; TAC, total antioxidant capacity; TG, triglyceride; WHR, waist-to-hip ratio.

healthy blueberry wheat germ muffins

Low in sugar, additional yogurt and high in anti-oxidants. Quick and easy recipe.

Photo: Crosby’s 

Recipe link

how it works

Wheat germ is a rich source of bioactive components with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Results show that wheat germ’s antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptotic, and hepatoprotective effects significantly benefit NAFLD. Potential mechanisms include its unsaturated fatty acids, high levels of vitamin E, tocopherols, and carotenoids. Wheat germ oil (WGO) increases tissue vitamin E content, protecting against oxidative damage, and counters oxidative stress and hepatotoxicity. WGO’s linoleic and alpha-linolenic acids lower cholesterol levels, while its anti-inflammatory properties activate neuropeptides and cytokines. Betaine, found in wheat germ, inhibits inflammation, improves insulin resistance, and reduces liver oxidative stress, targeting pathways like NF-κB, AMPK, PPARα/γ, LXRα, Akt, and TLR4.

Wheat germ also activates neuropeptides, cytokines, and macrophages due to its anti-inflammatory properties.


In conclusion, the study shows that 12 weeks of wheat germ consumption significantly reduces inflammation, serum cholesterol, and triglyceride levels. It also improves antioxidant capacity, hepatic steatosis in NAFLD patients. Wheat germ should be considered for NAFLD management.

how to

This study used 4-5 tbsp. of wheat germ per session = 40 grams.

Add to oatmeal, other healthy breakfast cereals, porridge, smoothies, yogurt, breads, muffins. 


Gluten sensitive or other allergen sensitive people should avoid wheat germ. Refined wheat germ oil typically contains no gluten. Wheat germ was well tolerated and is a natural food.

According to some studies wheat germ oil may include the similar benefits. 

According to the US FDA, wheat germ oil is gluten-free if it contains no more than 20 parts per million of gluten. This is because the refining process typically removes all gluten proteins from wheat germ oil. However, it’s possible that refined oils may contain trace amounts of gluten.

During the 12-week trial, there were no side effects reported by the participants. 

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protect metabolic health

Remember, no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men. The AHA limits for children vary depending on their age and caloric needs, but range between 3-6 teaspoons (12 – 25 grams) per day. Children under two should have zero grams of sugar per day.