Posts Tagged ‘functional foods’

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Contributor The Discovery_and_Properties_of_Avemar – Fermented_ Wheat_Germ_Extract:_Carcinogenesis_Suppressor

The following discussion will be a review of the current interest in Avemar, a nontoxic, fermentation product of wheat germ extract, garnering interest with respect to alternative and complementary medicinal use.

Extracts from an interview by Sandra Cascio with Mate Hidvegi

Mate’s Transylvania Professor Lajos David was the organizer of the Department of Pharmacy of the University of Szeged in the 1920’s. He was elected as the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, the first and only pharmacist who reached this high position at the University since. Dr. Hidvegy’s grandfather was a devout Roman catholic, who publicly opposed Nazi persecution of Jews during the Holocaust. One of his colleagues and, perhaps his best friend, was Albert Szent­Gyorgyi, the Nobel laureate who discovered vitaminC. Szent­Gyorgyi moved to the United States after World War II, where he turned to studies of muscle biochemistry. In his later years he turned to cancer research. He  theorized that a revolutionary anticancer drug could be based upon vitamin C combined with methoxy­substituted benzoquinones, the precursors of which can be found in wheat germ. After completion of the PhD, Dr. Hidvegi spent two years with the Wheat Grain Trust in Winnipeg, Canada, before returning to Hungary in 1990.  He decided to followthepathwaythat Szent­Gyorgyi was now engaged intocompletehisgoals.He contacted anoldfriend,GaborFodor, a brilliantchemist, also a collaborator withSzent­Gyorgyiincancerresearch.

He wasinvited by Hermann Esterbauer, the head of the Institute of Biochemistry at the University of Graz, to work in his laboratory. Thanks to the generosity of Professor Esterbauer,  he accomplished much at Graz  together with his student, Dr. Rita Farkas.  It was soon after Szent­-Gyorgyi’s death when, with the help of Dr. Fodor, they prepared the chemicals to make the drug Szent­-Gyorgyi had intended to make, with encouragement from the great quantum­ biochemist, Janos Ladik.  They made wheat germ extracts with the highest free benzoquinone content.This required a  fermentation process to liberate the benzoquinone moieties from the chemical bonds which keep them in natural forms: in glycosides. He recalls the purple colored active molecules in the fermentation liquid. Living cells with their exo­ and endo­enzymes are used to split bonds and make new molecules. This is also true for the manufacturing process of Avemar. This extract contains new molecules which cannot be found elsewhere.

“WhenAvemar was voted by the majority of the more than 50,000 professionals for NutrAward, it became obvious that this product is of biological efficacy  plus safety, and it is based on good science.” It received the financial support needed. From this, he was able to complete the experiments and get the approval for the registration. The time arrived when he really had to give a name to the product which had only had a code name. One late night it just came: Avemar, from the Latin prayer: Ave Maria.

Avemar with widely used chemotherapeutic drugs completely inhibited the development of metastases. Exploring its whole activity profile might even take a lifetime of research. So far he has supervised Avemar research done in Hungary, Israel, the United States, Austria, Italy, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany,the United Kingdom, Russia, Australia, Korea, Vietnam. It has been a good experience to see the scientific interest it has generated worldwide. In 2009, Dr. Hidvegy received an invitation from the Nobel laureate, James Watson, co­discoverer of DNA’s double helix. It was a great honor. Avemar, he hopes,will be a significant cancer drug.

Mate Hidvegi was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1955. He studied, then  taughat what is now Budapest University of Technology  and Economics.  After finishing university, he worked in the cereal industry and was co­developer of patented feed advisory system based on near infrared ingredient      data. In Hungary, Hidvegi was one of the pioneers in the development of           technologies for large ­scale production of instantized extracts for  therapeutic use.


Carcinogenesis vol.22 no.10 pp.1649–1652, 2001

Wheat germ extract inhibits experimental colon carcino-genesis in F-344 rats

Attila Zalatnai, Karoly Lapis, Bela Szende, Erzsebet Raso, Andros Telekes, Akos Resetar, and Mate Hidvegi


It has been demonstrated for the first time that a wheat germ extract prevents colonic cancer in laboratory animals. Four-week-old inbred male F-344 rats were used in the study. Colon carcinogenesis was induced by azoxy-methane (AOM). Ten rats served as untreated controls (group 1). For the treatment of the animals in group 2, AOM was dissolved in physiologic saline and the animals were given three weekly subcutaneous injections at 15 mg/kg body weight (b/w). In two additional groups Avemar (MSC), a fermented wheat germ extract standardized to 2,6-dimethoxy-p-benzoquinone was administered as a tentative chemo-preventive agent. MSC was dissolved in water and was given by gavage at a dose of 3 g/kg b/w once a day. In group 3, animals started to receive MSC 2 weeks prior to the first injection of AOM daily and continuously thereafter until they were killed 32 weeks later. In group 4 only the basal diet and MSC were administered. At the end of the experiment all the rats were exsanguinated under a light ether anesthesia and necropsied. Percentage of animals developing colon tumors and number of tumors per animals: group 1 – 0 and 0; group 2– 83.0 and 2.3; group 3 – 44.8 (P ≤ 0.001) and 1.3 (P ≤ 0.004); group 4 – 0 and 0. All the tumors were histologically neoplastic. The numbers of the aberrant crypt foci (ACF) per area (cm2) in group 2 were 4.85 while in group 3 the ACF numbers were 2.03 only (P ≤ 0.0001).
Table I. Macroscopic findings in the large intestines of F-344 rats treated with MSC or MSC +  AOM
No. of animals     w/tumorw   Average
# tumors


1 Untreated
controls (10)
0/10 0/10
2.  AOM (47) 39/47
2.3 ­+ 0.21
(range 1–8)
2.35 +
3.   MSC +
AOM (29)
1.3 + 0.17
(range 1–3)
2.21 +
4.  MSC (9) 0/9 0/9
Fig. 1. Experimental schedule. Colon carcinogenesis was induced by three consecutive s.c. doses of AOM 1 week apart in F-344 rats. Oral administration of MSC was started 2 weeks before the carcinogen treatments. All the animals were killed at the end of the experiment, e.g. on the 32nd week.  (not shown)


Summing up, although the chemoprevention of colon cancers (and their pre-neoplastic lesions) has well and long been established and could be achieved by totally different compounds, the mechanisms have still remained to be clarified. This is also true for MSC.

The exact mechanism by which the fermented wheat germ concentration can prevent colon cancer is still partly unknown. MSC did inhibit the AOM-induced ACF and colon neoplasm formation, the multiplicity of the tumors, apparently acting in the initiation phase. Regarding this, we can hypothesize that MSC acts as an immunomodulator.


Wheat Germ Extract Decreases Glucose Uptake and RNARibose Formation but Increases Fatty Acid Synthesis in MIAPancreatic Adenocarcinoma Cell

LG Boros, K Lapis, B Szende, R Tömösközi-Farkas, Ádám Balogh, …., and M Hidvégi

UCLA School of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Research and Education Institute, Torrance, Ca.; First Institute of Pathology and Experimental Cancer Research, Semmelweis  Medical University, Budapest, Hungary; Central Food Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary; Department of Surgery, Albert Szent-Gyorgyi Medical and Pharmaceutical Center, School of General Medicine, University of Szeged, Szeged, Hungary; Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institut d’Investigacions Biomediques August Pi i Sunyer, University of Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain; andDepartment of Biochemistryand Food Technology, Technical University of Budapest and Biromedicina Company, Budapest, Hungary

Pancreas 2001; 23 (2), pp. 141–147

Summary: The fermented wheat germ extract with standardized composition has potent tumor inhibitory properties. The fermented wheat germ extract controls tumor propagation. The authors show that this extract induces profound metabolic changes in cultured MIA pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells when the [1,2- 13C2] glucose isotope is used as the single tracer with biologic gas chromatography–mass spectrometry.

MIA cells treated with 0.1, 1, and 10 mg/mL wheat  germ extract showed a dose-dependent decrease in cell glucose consumption, consumption, uptake of isotope into ribosomal RNA (2.4%, 9.4%, and 8.0%), and release of 13CO2 . Conversely, direct glucose oxidation and ribose recycling in the pentose cycle showed a dose-dependent increase of 1.2%, 20.7%, and 93.4%. The newly synthesized fraction of cell palmitate and the 13C enrichment of acetyl units were also increased with all doses of wheat germ extract.

The fermented wheat germ extract controls tumor propagation primarily by regulating glucose carbon redistribution between cell proliferation–related and cell differentiation–related macromolecules. Wheat germ extract treatment is likely associated with the phosphor-ylation and transcriptional regulation of metabolic enzymes that are involved in glucose carbon redistribution between cell the direct oxidative degradation of glucose,proliferation–related structural and functional macromolecules(RNA, DNA) and the direct oxidative degradation and survival of pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in culture.

Key Words: Pentose cycle—Ribose synthesis—Fermented wheat germ extract—Nonoxidative glucose metabolism—Cell proliferation—Avemar.


Fig 1 glu consumption of MIA pancreatic carcinoma cells in response to WGE

Fig 1 glu consumption of MIA pancreatic carcinoma cells in response to WGE












Figure 1. Glucose consumption of MIA pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in response to increasing doses of fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar) treatment after 72 hours of culture. Glucose consumption (measured in milligrams) was estimated by the difference in media glucose content between Avemar-treated and control cultures. MIA cell glucose consumption was significantly inhibited in the presence of either 1 mg/mL (*p < 0.05) or 10 mg/mL (**p < 0.01) Avemar (x + SD;  n = 6).















Figure 3. Ribosomal RNA synthesis of MIA pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells in response to increasing doses of fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar) treatment after 72 hours of culture. Glucose carbon incorporation into ribose isolated from ribosomal RNA is expressed as molar enrichment. The dose-dependent decrease in of rRNA after Avemar treatment indicates that ribosomal RNA synthesis is the primary site significantly affected by all doses of Avemar treatment with a maximum decrease of 29% after 10 mg/mL treatment (x + SD; n = 9; *p < 0.05, **p < 0.01).

changes in metabolic activity indicate that Avemar treatment affects cell metabolism primarily by decreasing glucose uptake and nucleic acid ribose synthesis while increasing glucose oxidation through the oxidative reactions of the pentose cycle and fatty acid  synthesis from glucose carbon. The effect of Avemar treatment on lactate production and TCA cycle anapleurotic flux compared with glucose oxidation is less prominent


Fermented wheat germ extract induces apoptosis and downregulation of major histocompatibility complex class I proteins in tumor T and B cell lines


INTL J ONCOLOGY 2002; 20: 563-570.

Lymphocyte Signal Transduction Laboratory, Institute of Genetics, and Cytokine Group, Institute of Biochemistry, Biological Research Center of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, Szeged; Department of Biochemistry and Food Technology, Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Budapest, Hungary; Department of Medicine ‘B’, Center for Autoimmune Diseases, Sheba Medical Center, Tel-Hashomer, Israel; Central Food Research Institute; National Institute of Oncology; Biromedicina Co., Budapest, Hungary
Abstract. The fermented wheat germ extract (code name:  on cyto-fluorimeter using a monoclonal antibody to the  MSC, trade name: Avemar), with standardized benzoquinone non-polymorphic region of the human MHC class I. MSC  content has been shown to inhibit tumor propagation and stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of intracellular proteins metastases formation in vivo. The aim of this study was to  understand the molecular and cellular mechanisms of the anti-tumor effect of MSC. Therefore, we have designed in vitro model experiments using T and B tumor lymphocytic cell lines. As a result of the MSC treatment, cell surface MHC class I proteins was downregulated by 70-85% compared to the non-stimulated control.

Prominent apoptosis of and the influx of extracellular Ca2+ resulted in elevation of the amount of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration. 20-40% was detected upon 24 h of MSC treatment of the cell lines. Apoptosis was measured with cytofluorimetry by staining the DNA with propidium iodide and detecting the ‘sub-G ’ cell population.

Tyrosine phosphorylation of intra-cellular proteins and elevation of the intracellular Ca2+ concentration were examined using immunoblotting with anti-phosphotyrosine antibody and cytofluorimetry by means of Ca2+ sensitive fluorescence dyes, Fluo-3AM and FuraRed-AM, respectively. MSC did not induce a similar degree of apoptosis in healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells.

Inhibition of the cellular tyrosine phosphatase activity or Ca2+ influx resulted in the opposite effect – increasing or diminishing the Avemar induced apoptosis as well as the MHC class I downregulation. The level of the cell surface MHC class I molecules was analysed with indirect immunofluorescence. The benzoquinone component (2,6-dimethoxi-p-benzoquinone) in MSC induced similar apoptosis and downregulation of the MHC class I molecules in the tumor T and B cell lines to that of MSC. These results suggest that MSC acts on lymphoid tumor cells by reducing MHC class I expression and selectively promoting apoptosis of tumor cells on a tyrosine phosphorylation and Ca2+ influx dependent way.  One of the components in MSC, 2,6-dimethoxi-p-benzoquinone was shown to be an important factor in MSC mediated cell response.


Abbreviations:MHC, major histocompatibility complex;NK, natural killer;DMBQ, 2,6-dimethoxi-p-benzoquinone; FCS, fetal calf serum;PBMC, peripheral bloodmononuclear cells; TCR, T cell receptor;BCR, B cell receptor; mAb, monoclonal antibody;PMSF,phenylmethyl-sulfonylfluoride;pNPP, para-nitrophenyl-phosphate; PHA,phytohemagglutinineKey words: fermented wheat germ extract, Avemar, MSC, 2+ benzoquinone, tyrosine phosphorylation, intracellular Ca , CD45, tyrosine phosphatase, MHC class I downregulation, apoptosis









Figure 4. Apoptosis of tumor T cell lines and healthy lymphocytes upon MSC treatment. Jurkat cells were treated with 1 mg/ml MSC or .3 µg/ml DMBQ and PBMC were treated with 1 mg/ml
MSC for 24 h (A) or Jurkat cells were treated for 12 h (thick line in panel B). Control cells were left unstimulated (black bars in panel A or thin line on panel B). Apoptotic cells were enumerated
with the DNA analysis of the ‘sub-G ’ population (A) or with staining the cells with FITC1 labeled Annexin V
(B). Representative experiments are shown. The difference between the % of apoptosis in the case of treated and non-treated Jurkat cells was significant (MSC, p<0.001, n=14; DMBQ, p<0.05, n=3,
using  paired, two-tailed t-test). No difference was found for PBMC (n=2).

MSC treatment causes prominent apoptosis in lymphoid tumor cells but it does not induce apoptosis of healthy resting mononuclear cells. Moreover, although MSC blocks the proliferation of PBM cells stimulated with PHA, it does not induce apoptosis in PHA stimulated cells (data not shown).


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Benefits of Functional Foods in Nutrient Imbalance of Vulnerable Populations

Reporter and Curator: Dr. Sudipta Saha, Ph.D.

There are clear distinctions between a food and a drug. Nutraceuticals, however, occupy a place between the two. Nutraceuticals are naturally derived phytochemicals with potential health benefits and without the characteristics of being essential nutrients. Foods that contain these non-essential substances with potential health benefits may qualify as “functional foods.” As defined by the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences, the term functional food refers to foods that provide health benefits beyond basic nutrition. Examples of these are

  • psyllium seeds (soluble fiber),
  • soy foods (isoflavones),
  • cranberry juice (proanthocyanidins),
  • purple grape juice (resveratrol),
  • tomatoes (lycopene), and
  • green tea (catechins).

The bioactive components of functional foods:

  • flavonols,
  • monomeric and polymeric flavan-3-ols,
  • highly coloured anthocyanins, and
  • phenolic acids

may be increased in or added to traditional foods. An example is a genetically modified tomato high in lycopene, which has potent antioxidant capabilities.

The risk of nutrient imbalance is highest in vulnerable populations unable to access essential or conditionally essential nutrients. To a large extent, the

  • very young and the
  • frail elderly

are the select groups who might benefit most from alleviating this risk. The lack of adequate nutrition may be due to seasonal and unexpected losses of agricultural produce; however, poverty is a factor on a global scale as a result of growing economic disparities. The question then becomes what role functional foods offer to improve recognized population nutritional deficiencies. The range of work being done on functional foods is impressive, from

  • modified oils that contain heart-healthy ω-3 fatty acids to
  • cassava plants developed with an increased protein content to help counter malnutrition in developing nations.

However, the nutraceutical industry has responded to and relies on the untested expectations of the healthiest members of the world’s population rather than its more vulnerable ones. Due largely to economic causes, those in need are less likely to receive the benefits of nutraceuticals from whole foods or from manufactured foods or supplements. This is particularly striking where the source is locally available and extracted for commerce but is unaffordable or unavailable to the native population.

The rapid advances in biotechnology and functional foods confront us with a need to address the benefits of these with regard to improving health and managing or decreasing disease risks. Conventional dietary recommendations have focused on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, a decreased sugar intake, and an emphasis on plant oils, recommendations that have unproved benefits for the prevention of chronic diseases and that have complexities involving individual, environmental, and genetic influences.

Although the potential benefits of phytochemicals could have an impact on health status for vulnerable populations, the recommendations focused on plant foods do not address the primary concerns of the undernutrition associated with a poor quality of protein intake. Taken individually, plant sources do not provide a balanced amino acid profile necessary for protein synthesis, being deficient in lysine and/or methionine. Animal sources of protein, specifically meat and fish, also provide essential fatty acids not found in plant sources of protein and that may be otherwise limited. In addition, plants may contain antinutritional factors (wheat, cassava roots, cabbages, soy beans), and plant-based diets may be deficient in important essential nutrients.

Programs must focus on the sustainable production and local processing of indigenous products that can be used by needy populations to improve their nutritional intake and enhance economic stability. In addition, dietary recommendations must not exclude important sources of nutrition for more vulnerable populations by focusing primarily on plant-based sources of food, decreasing saturated fat, and de-emphasizing the importance of high-value biologic protein. The global economic crisis has touched the lives of 80% of the population in most developing countries with a threat to the development of a generation of children (approximately 250 million) who are most vulnerable in the first 2 years of life. An investment in nutrition in this circumstance has a high value, and the use of complementary food supplements to increase a meal’s nutrient content is warranted.

A recent proposal has concluded there are health benefits for foods and food constituents put together in a synergic diet pattern, suggesting that the interrelation between constituents within whole foods is significant, and has recommended dietary variety and the selection of nutrient-rich foods. Providing vulnerable populations with an adequate supply of whole foods should take precedence over the recommendation of food products in supplying not only essential macro- and micronutrients and energy but also phytochemicals whose value to the human diet is still to be determined.

Source References:


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