Cereals naturally contain a great variety of polyphenols, which exert a wide range of physiological effects both in vitro and in vivo. Many of their protective effects, including an improvement of the function and redox state of immune cells in unhealthy or aged subjects come from their properties as powerful antioxidant compounds. However, whether cereal-based dietary supplementation positively affects the immune function and cellular redox state of healthy subjects remains unclear.
Aim of the study
To investigate the effects of supplementation (20% wt/wt) for 5 weeks with four different cereal fractions on healthy mice.
Several parameters of function and redox state of peritoneal leukocytes were measured. The cereals, named B (wheat germ), C (buckwheat flour), D (fine rice bran) and E (wheat middlings) contained different amounts of gallic acid, p-hydroxybenzoic acid, vanillic acid, sinapic acid, p-coumaric acid, ferulic acid, quercetin, catechin, rutin and oryzanol as major polyphenols.
In general, all cereal fractions caused an improvement of the leukocyte parameters studied such as chemotaxis capacity, microbicidal activity, lymphoproliferative response to mitogens, interleukin-2 (IL-2) and tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) release, as well as oxidized glutathione (GSSG), GSSG/GSH ratio, catalase (CAT) activity and lipid oxidative damage. We observed similar effects among the cereal fractions.
The results suggest that some of these effects may due, at least partially, to the antioxidant activity of the polyphenols naturally present in cereals. Since an appropriate function of the leukocytes has been proposed as marker of the health state, a short-term intake of cereals seems to be sufficient to exert a benefit in the health of the general population. However, further studies are needed to assess the optimal doses and to find out which active polyphenols are able to mediate the observed physiological effects before recommending their regular consumption.