While new research is focusing on the broader immune support potential of this special nutrient, the major emphasis to date has been its benefit for people undergoing standard cancer treatments – helping to improve outcomes and reduce adverse reactions.
Avemar® (fermented wheat germ extract) – the active ingredient in AveULTRA™ – was built on the work of two Nobel Laureates, more than six decades of research, and perhaps a small miracle.
The Story Behind the Story
In 1931, the German scientist Dr. Otto Warburg was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery that cancer cells use glucose (sugar) at a rate 10 to 50 times higher than healthy cells. It is this enormous consumption of glucose which fuels the explosive growth of cancer.
A few years later, another Nobel Prize winner – the Hungarian-born biochemist Dr. Albert Szent-Gyorgyi (who won for his discovery of Vitamin C) – set out to discover why there seemed to be much lower rates of cancer in populations that consumed large amounts of whole grain products. His theory was that supplementing a natural compound found in wheat germ could prevent cancer cells from growing without affecting healthy cells. His early studies, published in the 1960s in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, showed that, in the lab at least, his theory was correct.
Unfortunately, it was at about that time the scientific community began focusing on cancer treatments that are cytotoxic (i.e., toxic to cells) like chemotherapy and radiation, so Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi’s theory was set aside.
The Avemar Story – A Miracle?
Under communism, Hungarian scientists were not allowed to pursue their own personal research projects. But when communism fell in 1989, Dr. Mate Hidvegi decided to pick up where Dr. Szent-Gyorgyi had left off. The problem with the standard cytotoxic cancer treatments being used was that they couldn’t differentiate between cancer cells and healthy cells. So in order to kill the cancer cells, they also ended up destroying the healthy cells. He wanted to find a way to attack the cancer cells and still protect the healthy cells.
Although Dr. Hidvegi was making good progress, his funding soon ran out and it looked like the research would once again have to be set aside. His wife was pressuring him to give up research and find a job that paid. But Dr. Hidvegi was a man with a great deal of faith. He prayed to the Virgin Mary for both guidance and an investor. The very next day a stranger gave him a large check – in the $100,000 ballpark – enabling him to continue his research and finally patent his technique of fermenting wheat germ with brewer’s yeast. Dr. Hidvegi named the resulting product Avemar as a tribute to the Virgin Mary (“Ave” means “hail” and “Mar” means “Mary”).
The Science Supporting Avemar
Avemar has been the subject of more than 100 studies – in laboratory cell lines, with animals, and in human clinical trials – and its research has been published in more than 30 articles in respected medical peer-reviewed journals. While there is some research on the use of Avemar for autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, the vast majority of research has focused on its effect as a support for people undergoing various types of cancer treatment. Some examples:
• In a controlled study of 170 patients with primary colorectal cancer, half received “standard of care” (surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and/or other appropriate therapies) and half received “standard of care” plus once-a-day Avemar. Only 3 percent of the Avemar group experienced a recurrence of the cancer, as opposed to 17 percent of the standard-care-only group. In addition, there was a 67 percent reduction in metastasis and a 62 percent reduction in deaths in the Avemar group.(1)
• A one-year, non-randomized trial of oral cancer patients(2) showed some impressive results:
|Treatment / No. of Patients||Local Recurrence (recurred in same spot)||Disease Progression (metastasis and/or death)|
|Standard care / 21||57.1%||61.9%|
|Standard care + Avemar / 22||4.5%||9.09%|
• In a randomized study of stage III melanoma patients, 26 received surgery and chemotherapy and 26 received the same with the addition of Avemar taken once a day. Those in the Avemar group had nearly a 50% reduction in risk of progression. The researchers concluded: “We, therefore, highly recommend the inclusion of this fermented wheat-germ-extract-based medical nutriment into the adjuvant protocols of high-risk skin melanoma patients.”(3)
Many of the studies also observed that the use of Avemar with standard cancer treatments was associated with reduced frequency and severity of some of the side effects commonly experienced with chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea, fatigue, weight loss and immune suppression.
How Avemar Works
In 2005, researchers at UCLA published a review of multiple studies done on Avemar and outlined some of the biological mechanisms involved in Avemar’s apparent ability to help the body cope with cancer.(4) This review of in vitro and in vivo research demonstrated how Avemar:
1. Blocks glucose uptake in cancer cells, cutting off their energy supply.
Cancer cells crave glucose. It’s what allows them to thrive and grow. The higher the rate of glucose utilization a cancer cell has, the greater its chance of spreading. A 2001 study showed not only that Avemar significantly reduced glucose utilization in a broad range of different types of cancer cells, but also that the worse the malignancy was, the more Avemar inhibited the cells’ glucose utilization.(5) When cancer cells are no longer able to utilize glucose, they can no longer continue to grow.
2. Promotes cancer cell death by apoptosis (programmed cell death).
Cancer cells tend to reproduce so quickly and chaotically that they end up having a lot of breaks in their cellular structures. Because of this, cancer cells need a lot of the enzyme PARP (poly-ADP-ribose) in order to repair the breaks. When there is no PARP available, another enzyme called Caspase-3 steps in and sets up a programmed cell death. In a study of leukemia tumor cells, researchers demonstrated that Avemar inhibited the production of PARP and increased the production of Caspase-3, which helped promote the programmed death of the cancer cells.(6)
3. Unmasks cancer cells working in disguise.
Healthy cells have a membrane feature called MHC-1 (Major Histocompatibility Complex 1) that basically tells natural killer (NK) cells – the immune system’s first line of defense – “I’m a good guy; don’t attack me.” Cells that have been infected with a virus don’t have that membrane, which readily identifies them as a target for the NK cells. But some cancer cells have learned how to work in disguise, displaying the MHC-1 membrane, which effectively hides them from the NK cells. Avemar helps the immune system find those cancer cells by suppressing their ability to disguise themselves.(7)
Not Just for Cancer Patients
Scientists are continuing to explore the possibilities of how Avemar may be used to support the immune system.
“As Safe as Whole Wheat Bread”
Unlike standard cancer treatments, which are highly toxic, Avemar was found not to be toxic at all. In fact, a safety study published in the International Journal of Toxicology found that taking Avemar was as safe as eating whole wheat bread.(8) In the United States, this extract has fulfilled the self-affirmed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS) status.
Avemar, Ave, and AveULTRA – What’s the difference?
Avemar** is fermented wheat germ extract and is the active ingredient in both Ave and AveULTRA. Ave™ was the first dietary supplement to contain Avemar. AveULTRA is the new and improved version of Ave.
AveULTRA is the result of Dr. Hidvegi’s effort to improve his original patented, fermented wheat germ processing method. Some of the improvements include:
• Utilizing low-temperature freeze-drying, eliminating the need to add maltodextrin as a stabilizer.
• Replacing fructose sweetener with the natural, zero-calorie sweetener Stevia, Reb-A.
• Making it three times more concentrated – 5.5g of AveULTRA is equal to 17g of Ave.
• Reducing the non-active ingredients by 99 percent.
• Improving the taste.
Important Details About the Use of AveULTRA
How to take it: AveULTRA is a mild orange-flavored instant drink mix in powder form. Add one packet of AveULTRA to 4 oz. of cold water (or juice that has less than 10 mg of vitamin C) in a container with a lid and shake until dissolved. Consume it within 30 minutes of mixing.
When to take it: AveULTRA should be taken once a day, one hour before or after a meal, and two hours before or after any drugs or other dietary supplements.
Contraindications: Do not take AveULTRA if you are pregnant or breastfeeding; if you’ve had an organ or tissue transplant; if you have bleeding GI ulcers, malabsorption syndrome, gluten sensitivities, or sensitivity to wheat germ. If you’re going to have a barium X-ray contrast exam, it is recommended that you discontinue AveULTRA for two days prior to and resume taking it two days after the exam.
Time required for results: Often improvements in energy, appetite and daily function are seen within three weeks. Objective markers such as blood markers, CAT scans, MRIs, etc. typically take about three months.
Potential side effects: A few people have reported very minor GI discomfort that went away after a few days. No vomiting, diarrhea or other GI problems have been reported.
It’s important to remember that Avemar is not promoted as a stand-alone cancer “treatment,” nor has it been studied as such. Rather, clinical trials have shown that this dietary supplement can be an effective support to standard cancer treatment protocols, helping to improve outcomes and reduce adverse reactions.
1. Jakab F, et al. A medical nutriment has supportive value in the treatment of colorectal cancer, Br J Cancer. 2003 Aug 4;89 (3):465-9.
2. Fulop, E. et al. 2004. Results of the administration of Avemar in oral cavity cancer patients. 7th Congress of the Hungarian Society of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Pecs, Hungary, October 16–18.
3. Demidov LV, et al. Adjuvant fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar) nutraceutical improves survival of high-risk skin melanoma patients: a randomized, pilot, phase II clinical study with a 7-year follow-up, Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2008 Aug;23(4):477-82.
4. Boros LG, et al. Fermented wheat germ extract (Avemar) in the treatment of cancer and autoimmune diseases, Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Jun;1051:529-42.
5. Boros LG, Lapis K, Szende B, Tömösközi-Farkas R, Balogh A, Boren J, Marin S, Cascante M, Hidvégi M., Wheat germ extract decreases glucose uptake and RNA ribose formation but increases fatty acid synthesis in MIA pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells, Pancreas. 2001 Aug;23(2):141-7.
6. Comin-Anduix B, et al. Fermented wheat germ extract inhibits glycolysis/pentose cycle enzymes and induces apoptosis through poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activation in Jurkat T-cell leukemia tumor cells, J Biol Chem. 2002 Nov 29;277(48):46408-14. Epub 2002 Sep 25.
7. Fajka-Boja, R. et al. 2002. Fermented wheat germ extract induces apoptosis and downregulation of major histocompatibility complex class I proteins in tumor T and B cell lines. Int. J. Oncol. 20: 563–570.
8. Heimbach JT, et al. Safety studies regarding a standardized extract of fermented wheat germ, Int J Toxicol. 2007 May-Jun;26(3):253-9.
** American BioSciences, Inc. is the exclusive U.S. distributor of Avemar Fermented Wheat Germ Extract, and has been granted the license to manufacture Avemar in the United States by its inventor and patent holder, Dr. Mate Hidvegi. Recently another manufacturer has been making unsubstantiated accusations against American BioSciences, Inc. and Dr. Hidvegi. You can download and read American BioSciences’ response to the controversy here: www.americanbiosciences.com/pdf/AveUltra_Letter_Response_Final.pdf
* Karen Lee Richards is Lead Expert specializing in Fibromyalgia and ME/CFS, for HealthCentral’s ChronicPainConnection (www.chronicpainconnection.com). Karen is co-founder of the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) and was Executive Editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine for four years.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is general information and is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team.