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Environment

New insights suggest whole grain compounds boost immune health

Scientists aim to take advantage of benzoxazinoid compounds in whole grains to improve immune system health

by Stephen K. Ritter
August 29, 2016 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 94, ISSUE 34

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Credit: Inge Fomsgaard
Fomsgaard and her coworkers prepared this set of rye breads using new recipes to enhance the content of healthful benzoxazinoid compounds.
Credit: Inge Fomsgaard
Fomsgaard and her coworkers prepared this set of rye breads using new recipes to enhance the content of healthful benzoxazinoid compounds.

Whole grains in bread and other foods can add a healthy dose of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber to our diets. But scientists such as Inge S. Fomsgaard of Aarhus University are looking further at how some lesser-known bioactive grain compounds called benzoxazinoids, or BXs for short, can improve health through their immune-boosting properties. Scientists have known for a few decades that BXs help protect young cereal grain plants such as rye, wheat, and corn against weeds, insects, and diseases. But it wasn’t until 2009 that Fomsgaard’s group discovered that mature grains also contain BXs. Fomsgaard and her colleagues subsequently found that BXs survive food processing and that the composition and concentration of the compounds are enhanced via enzymatic processes during malting or baking. Using mass-spectrometry-based metabolomics methods in rats, pigs, and people, the researchers have shown that BXs are taken up, distributed, and metabolized by mammals and that a diet high in BXs provides a boost to immune cells. Fomsgaard created the Bread & Breakfast project to take advantage of the compounds, including developing new food products with optimized BX content. The team also initiated the RyeproC project after experiments in mice and humans by other groups showed that rye bran helps suppress prostate cancer. In initial studies, the Aarhus team has uncovered seven BXs that enter prostate tissue, with HBOA-glc being the major metabolite detected.

 

For the longer, original version of this story, reported from the ACS national meeting in Philadelphia, click here.

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