Health Psychology Home Page
Papers written by students providing scientific reviews of topics related to health and well being
|Search||Home | Weight Loss | Alternative Therapy | Supplements | Eating Disorders | Fitness | Links | Self-Assessment | About this Page ||
1 shot of Wheat grass Juice = 1 Kilogram of Vegetables?
As common knowledge may have it, vegetables are part of a balanced, nutritious diet. The arduous process of eating the required amount of fruits and vegetables each day, however, can become quite cumbersome. In fact, only “one in eleven people eats the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables per day.” 1 Therefore, with the claim that one shot of wheat grass juice is the equivalent of one kilogram of vegetables, wheat grass presents an enticing, cure-all option for those of us lacking in the essential amino acids, enzymes, minerals and vitamins found in vegetables. 2
Setting aside the grandiose claims that wheat grass can do everything from prevent cancer to blood detoxification, 3 the main question at hand here is whether or not a single 30-ml shot is the equivalent of one kilogram of vegetables. Before tackling the more complex issues of disease causation and treatment, we must first analyze why health food advocates are claiming that wheat grass is a super food 4 that supersedes the nutritional value of your commonplace produce product.
WHAT IS WHEAT GRASS?
Wheat grass, the young version of the common wheat plant Triticum aestivum, is a juice consumed orally in quantities of two to four ounces per day. 3 Health food stores have sold wheat grass since the early 1940’s in the US but this super food has recently become an international phenomena. The active ingredients in wheat grass are vitamins A, B, C and E, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron, natural enzymes and chlorophyll. 5
Table 1. Nutritional Facts of 1 oz. of Wheat grass Juice 1
SUPPOSED HEALTH BENEFITS OF WHEAT GRASS
Health food companies as well as health data resources are boasting about the nutritional benefits of wheat grass. Wheat grass is deemed a “blood purifier, cleanser, and detoxifier” that prevents diseases such as cancer by increasing the flow of oxygen to cells.3 Wheat grass supposedly executes the following functions: promoting healthy vascular, intestinal, and bronchial systems, promoting clearer thinking, revitalizing energy level, halting cancer cells’ growth hormones and eliminating toxins from the body.6 Wow, so that’s quite a resumé, especially considering the variation of sources, which span anywhere from doctors to popular magazines to health institutes to profit-run health food stores.
WHY IS WHEAT GRASS SO HEALTHY?
So what is it about wheat grass that makes such grandiose declarations possible? Well, as all vegetables do, wheat grass contains chlorophyll. The chlorophyll in wheat grass is considered especially potent because wheat grass contains 70% chlorophyll, 6 which functions similarly to hemoglobin by stimulating red blood cell production. 4 As shown in a pilot study, which randomly selected patients with transfusion dependent b-thalassemia in a controlled study to receive wheat grass juice verse the typical procedure of blood transfusions, wheat grass juice “was found to have beneficial effect on the transfusion requirements in 50% of patients.” 17 Although there are some inadequacies in this study, the small sample size of 16 patients and the indiscipline of the patients to ingest the wheat grass juice, there is still some suggestion that wheat grass juice “decreased the total volume of blood transfused and increased the intervals between blood transfusions,” suggesting an increase in red blood cells. 15 The chlorophyll also accounts for an increase in energy in a similar way as it functions in plants, sunlight excites electrons, which become stored energy as ATP in the cells. 9
a bit of a stretch though just based on its antioxidant properties.
The claims above encompass so many different aspects of health and therefore, for them to hold any weight, the claims require a multitude of research in order to suggest any correlation with wheat grass. Since these studies are surprisingly absent, for reasons discussed later, the question has become, is wheat grass even equivalent to the amounts of vegetables that it claims? As doctor and author Sandra Cabot explains, before considering the more complex effects of wheat grass, “the most important thing to do is look at the nutrients in the wheat grass juice, what does it contain, there's a lot of research behind these nutrients”. 5
EVIDENCE OF HEALTH BENEFITS
The only problem with Dr Cabot’s approach, however, is that there is even less evidence about the make-up of wheat grass in comparison to other vegetables. There seem to only be review articles regarding the claim that one shot of wheat grass juice is the equivalent of one kilogram of vegetables. 2 Of course, each source sites this same information in many different formats including “15 pounds of wheat grass is equivalent to 350 pounds of the choicest vegetables.” 8 In the end, however, the nutrient comparison between wheat grass and other vegetables is left to sources such as the Table 1 displayed above. The table only shows evidence of Vitamin C and Iron, respectively at 6% abd 10% of daily value. This level of vitamins and nutrients hardly seems adequate to answer for the health benefits of wheat grass.
this study do suggest some healing properties of wheat grass, the small sample size makes the claims difficult to apply in the universal setting that the internet hype has displayed.
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? As a skeptical Dr Samir Samman points out, "The claims include prevention of cancer, prevention of heart disease prevention of diabetes, chelation or detoxification of heavy metals, cleansing, liver cleansing and prevention of hair loss and none of these claims have actually been substantiated in the scientific literature." 11 This is not to say that these claims will not stand up to scientific research, but it is to suggest that researchers invest in large sample size, double-blind trials on wheat grass, especially if any of its miracle claims may be true.
4. Ripley, Jacqui. “Weekend: Seven super antioxidant foods: There's more than one way to tackle those damaging free radicals” The Guardian. September 2006; pg. 6
6. Bradley, Ronald. "You can reduce stress—lose weight--detoxify--stop smoking--increase energy with living foods." Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients (April 2003): 86(3).
10. Gaby, Alan R. "Wheat grass juice for ulcerative colitis.
(Literature Review & Commentary)." Townsend Letter for Doctors and
Patients (August-Sept 2002)
14. Hess D. 'The raw and the organic: politics of therapeutic cancer diets in the US' Annals of the Academy
of Political and Social Science (2002); 583: 76-97 http://ann.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/583/1/76
15. Fernandes CJ; Odonovan DJ Natural antioxidant therapy for patients with hemolytic anemia. Indian Pediatr 2005; 42: 618-620. http://www.indianpediatrics.net/june2005/618.pdf
16. Ben-Arye E, Goldin E, Wengrower D, Stamper A, Kohn R, Berry E. Wheat grass juice in the treatment of active distal ulcerative colitis: a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Scand J Gastroenterol 2002; 37: 444-449.
17. Marawaha RK, Bansal D, Kaur S, Trehan A. Wheat grass juice reduces transfusion requirement in patients with thalassemia major: a pilot study. Indian Pediatr 2004; 41: 716-720. http://medind.nic.in/ibv/t04/i7/ibvt04i7p716.pdf
18. Kulkarni Sunil D, Jai. C. Tilak, R. Acharya, Nilima S. Rajurkar, T. P. A. Devasagayam, A. V. R. Reddy. Evaluation of the antioxidant activity of wheat grass (Triticum aestivum L.) as a function of growth under different conditions. Phytotherapy Research 2006; 203: 218-227.
The Health Psychology Home Page is
produced and maintained by David Schlundt, PhD.
Vanderbilt Homepage | Introduction to Vanderbilt | Admissions | Colleges & Schools | Research Centers | News & Media Information | People at Vanderbilt | Libraries |Vanderbilt Register | Medical Center
|Return to the Health Psychology Home Page|
|Send E-mail comments or questions to Dr. Schlundt|