Wheat germ is a component of the wheat grain. It is considered a by-product in the manufacture of white flour but is retained in whole grain flour, and it is responsible for some of the beneficial nutritional properties of wholemeal wheat products. Wheat Germ is rich in protein and minerals, and is also a great source of fatty acids, including octosanol, which has been implicated in cholesterol reduction, and has also been investigated for its effects on athletic performance.
Where Does Wheat Germ Come From?
A wheat kernel is made up of three components. The outer layer, known as the husk or bran, is rich in fibre and makes up about 15% of the grain. The endosperm is the carbohydrate-rich portion that is milled to make flour, and takes up just over 80% of the space in each kernel. The wheat germ accounts for the remaining 3-5%, and it is the part of the seed that germinates into a plant.
Wheat is a one of the world's major staple food crops, and is grown throughout the world.
Wheat germ can be found in whole wheat products, or it can be purchased seperately, as can wheat germ oil.
Wheat Germ Benefits
Because wheat germ is high in protein, nutrient dense, with a mild, pleasant flavour, it has been on the radar of many health conscious people for some time.
Wheat germ is about 30% protein by weight, has a high quality amino acid profile, and is easily incorporated into smoothies and shakes, baked goods, and casseroles, to up the protein and nutrient content (1).
It is a great source of vitamins and minerals, like vitamin E, B, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and folate, and it is rich in antioxidant flavonoids which can have a positive impact on cardiovascular health (1).
Wheat germ oil is an excellent source of essential fatty acids, including the precursors to active forms of omega-3 and 6, and other bioactive lipids, including octocosanol. Octacosanol has been praised for its health benefits, and has shown some ability to lower levels of damaging LDL cholesterol (2). It has shown some promise in the treatment of Parkinson's disease and degenerative motor neuron disease ALS (3, 6), and has displayed anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effects in animal research studies (4). There is a small amount of research that suggests wheat germ oil may alter fatty acid metabolism and promote weight loss (7).
Octacosanol gained a reputation as a performance enhancer in the 1960s, when it was thought to positively influence vitality, energy, endurance and muscle strength. It was particularly associated with the stimulation of blood flow and improvement of reaction speed. Wheat germ oil was a popular nutritional supplement for athletes (5).
Wheat Germ Benefits for Bodybuilding
Strength athletes and people trying to put on muscle need to be in optimum condition to get the best results, and wheat germ is a concentrated source of nutrition which provides a great overall health boost. Because it is rich in good quality vegetable protein, it's great for vegetarians and vegans, and the anti inflammatory and pain relieving effects may assist recovery after exercise.
Wheat germ oil is used by a number of endurance athletes for energy, and dieters for weight loss.
Wheat Germ Side Effects, Negatives & Safety
While it is indisputable that wheat germ and wheat germ oil are healthy, nutrient-packed additions to anyone's diet, the jury is out on a lot the proposed effects, particularly those involving weight loss, and studies have shown that wheat germ has little effect as a performance enhancing supplement (8).
The vast majority of people will not experience any side effects or negative reactions when consuming wheat germ.
Wheat Germ Dosage & Ingredient Timing
Wheat germ is a great addition to food, any time, and is commonly sprinkled on breakfast cereals or stirred into yoghurt or a smoothie. Wheat germ oil generally comes as a liquid, which can be added to food or drink, or gelcaps. A usual dose is 0.5-2g of oil per day.
Wheat Germ Supplements
Whole wheat germ and wheat germ oil are the most common forms in which wheat germ is found, and protein derived from wheat germ is used in some vegetarian protein blends.
Stacking Wheat Germ
Try wheat germ with your breakfast protein for a great tasting nutrient boost.
(1) Brandolini A, Hidalgo A. Wheat germ: not only a by-product. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2012 Mar;63 Suppl 1:71-4.
(2) Hargrove JL, Greenspan P, Hartle DK. Nutritional significance and metabolism of very long chain fatty alcohols and acids from dietary waxes. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004 Mar;229(3):215-26.
(3) Wang T1, Liu YY, Wang X, Yang N, Zhu HB, Zuo PP. Protective effects of octacosanol on 6-hydroxydopamine-induced Parkinsonism in rats via regulation of ProNGF and NGF signaling. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2010 Jul;31(7):765-74.
(4) de Oliveira AM, Conserva LM, de Souza Ferro JN, de Almeida Brito F, Lyra Lemos RP, Barreto E. Antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects of octacosanol from the leaves of Sabicea grisea var. grisea in mice. Int J Mol Sci. 2012;13(2):1598-611.
(5) 'Wheat Germ Oil'. Nutros, the World's Premier Nutrition database. http://www.nutros.com/supplements/wheat-germ-oil/. Accessed 1st December 2014.
(6) Norris FH, Denys EH. Nutritional supplements in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Adv Exp Med Biol. 1987;209:183-9.
(7) Kato S1, Karino K, Hasegawa S, Nagasawa J, Nagasaki A, Eguchi M, Ichinose T, Tago K, Okumori H, Hamatani K, et al. Octacosanol affects lipid metabolism in rats fed on a high-fat diet. Br J Nutr. 1995 Mar;73(3):433-41.
(8) Beltz SD, Doering PL. Efficacy of nutritional supplements used by athletes. Clin Pharm. 1993 Dec;12(12):900-8.