Thursday, April 12, 2007

EoR Goes Grazing

EoR's favourite nutritionist, Helen Frost, gets a guest consulting spot in last week's West Australian newspaper's Mind&Body&Nonsense supplement, on the burning issue of "Is wheatgrass a healthy choice?".

The nutritional benefit of wheatgrass came under the microscope recently when consumer magazine, Choice, questioned the health claims made about wheatgrass by some juice makers. But wheatgrass is clawing back its reputation. Nutritionist Helen Frost said wheatgrass juice - recommended to be taken daily as a 30ml juice - was beneficial to people's diets and it was unfortunate some far-fetched claims had tarnished its reputation.

Ms Frost then goes on to make some, presumably, non-far-fetched claims about wheatgrass:

"It can help to restore alkalinity and neutralise the acidity in the body," she said. "Wheatgrass juice has got a lot of chlorophyll and it is very similar to our own haemoglobin, it will boost metabolism and reduce cravings."

The reporter then repeats the statement that chlorophyll and haemoglobin have a similar molecular structure. Ms Frost concludes:

"It's packed with antioxidants and essential amino acids, it's called a green super food and there is no denying that," Ms Frost said.

For those interested in the mythology of wheatgrass, there's a whole book available online, though the chapter on Chlorophyll and Blood Regeneration is relevant to today's discussion.

There are many reasons why cereal grass and other dark green plants can be considered "blood-building" foods. The vitamins and minerals in cereal grass are essential to the synthesis and function of the components of healthy blood. But perhaps the most interesting connection between green foods and blood is the similarity in the structures of the two colored pigments, heme and chlorophyll. The biological relationship between these two molecules, though studied for over 60 years, is still not completely clear. It does appear, however, that small amounts of the digestive products of chlorophyll may stimulate the synthesis of either heme or globin or both in animals and humans.

It should be noted that the wheatgrass advocates seem to rely almost solely on research from the 1930s.

Wheatgrass is a wonder:

Have you ever watched cattle or horses grazing and wondered how such large, strong, and downright magnificent creatures sustain themselves on a diet that's primarily composed of grass?

Um, would it have something to do with having four stomachs, or a massive caecum in order to be able to digest the cellulose? Neither of which humans possess.

Wheatgrass is apparently even better than scam EMF blocking widgets:

It's speculated, then, that wheatgrass juice - taken on a daily basis - might even slow down the harmful effects of X-rays, and it's been claimed that wheatgrass plants kept in front of a color television set will actually absorb part of the radiation that the tube emits, as well as some pollutants and odors from the indoor air.

Speculation, need EoR point out, is not proof.

Wheatgrass has a myriad of applications - you don't just have to drink it:

Wheatgrass juice is said to be helpful when used externally as well as when taken internally. Some claim that an enema of fresh wheatgrass juice cleans out the bowel and eliminates constipation, and the liquid is also used as a douche to clear up vaginal infections. If you're plagued by dandruff, you might want to try rubbing the juice into your scalp, then rinsing and shampooing as usual. Even skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis are said to be helped by the juice's healing chlorophyll.

Does 1 shot of Wheat grass Juice = 1 Kilogram of Vegetables?:

Unfortunately, I believe that my question has gone unanswered. Although, multiple sources claim that one shot of wheat grass is equivalent to one kilogram of vegetables, this question goes largely untested by the health community. The few studies that are around regarding wheat grass are mostly faulty in sample size. Interestingly, the few academic studies found all seem to reference each other. This close connection amongst the articles implies a lack of clinical trials regarding the wheat grass product. As wheat grass becomes more prevalent in health food stores and widely accepted internationally, the evidence behind these claims should be presented to the public. How are we to believe that wheat grass can cure cancer and prevent heart disease if we aren’t given any evidence regarding even the basic vitamins and minerals in wheat grass?

The People's Media Company states:

Wheatgrass and the juice extracted from it have become hot button issues in the world of organic health. While the proponents of the multiple benefits that wheatgrass juice offers are many, the jury made up of members of the scientific community remains deadlocked. One reason for this is that if wheatgrass really could do all its champions claim it does for everybody who drinks it, it would have to be regarded as a bona fide magical potion.

Just because two molecules are "similar" doesn't mean they are interchangeable (assuming that the chlorophyll wasn't first actually digested anyway).

Choice advises:

CHOICE compared the nutritional value of a shot of wheatgrass juice to 30 g each of cooked spinach and broccoli, and to a garden salad, and found all three contained lots more of many vitamins and minerals than the wheatgrass juice. There was also only limited supporting evidence for the claim that wheatgrass acts as an anti-inflammatory, with good-quality studies needed to back up observational findings. Claims about wheatgrass’s wound healing properties also have limited supporting evidence. There’s also little confirmation that wheatgrass juice builds red blood cells and improves circulation and tissue oxygenation. And evidence surrounding its claims of cancer prevention is inconclusive.

In a further article, Choice also investigates the claims of the wheatgrass promoters:

"A shot of wheatgrass juice is nutritionally equivalent to a kilo of fresh green vegies"
Verdict: Not true.
"Wheatgrass acts as an anti-inflammatory and has wound-healing properties"
Verdict: Limited supporting evidence. Good-quality studies are needed to back up observational findings.
"Wheatgrass builds red blood cells and improves circulation and tissue oxygenation."
Verdict: Based on conjecture - needs more research.
"Wheatgrass helps prevent and can cure cancer."
Verdict: Inconclusive evidence for prevention - none for cure.
"Wheatgrass gets rid of bad breath and body odour."
Verdict: The evidence isn’t for wheatgrass itself - and it’s mixed.
Wheatgrass safety
As far as the evidence goes, there’s minimal risk to your health from taking wheatgrass juice.

NCAHF page on Wheatgrass Therapy
Wheatgrass Madness at Skeptico

1 comment:

  1. Re "Have you ever watched cattle or horses grazing and wondered how such large, strong, and downright magnificent creatures sustain themselves on a diet that's primarily composed of grass?"

    Crocodiles are also large, strong and downright magnificent. Is this because their keepers eat wheatgrass?,,2-10-1462_2097373,00.html


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.