Whole-grain wheat consumption reduces inflammation in a randomized controlled trial on overweight and obese subjects with unhealthy dietary and lifestyle behaviors: role of polyphenols bound to cereal dietary fiber

Am J Clin Nutr. 2015 Feb;101(2):251-61. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.114.088120. Epub 2014 Dec 3.


Background: Epidemiology associates whole-grain (WG) consumption with several health benefits. Mounting evidence suggests that WG wheat polyphenols play a role in mechanisms underlying health benefits.

Objective: The objective was to assess circulating concentration, excretion, and the physiologic role of WG wheat polyphenols in subjects with suboptimal dietary and lifestyle behaviors.

Design: A placebo-controlled, parallel-group randomized trial with 80 healthy overweight/obese subjects with low intake of fruit and vegetables and sedentary lifestyle was performed. Participants replaced precise portions of refined wheat (RW) with a fixed amount of selected WG wheat or RW products for 8 wk. At baseline and every 4 wk, blood, urine, feces, and anthropometric and body composition measures were collected. Profiles of phenolic acids in biological samples, plasma markers of metabolic disease and inflammation, and fecal microbiota composition were assessed.

Results: WG consumption for 4-8 wk determined a 4-fold increase in serum dihydroferulic acid (DHFA) and a 2-fold increase in fecal ferulic acid (FA) compared with RW consumption (no changes). Similarly, urinary FA at 8 wk doubled the baseline concentration only in WG subjects. Concomitant reduction in plasma tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) after 8 wk and increased interleukin (IL)-10 only after 4 wk with WG compared with RW (P = 0.04) were observed. No significant change in plasma metabolic disease markers over the study period was observed, but a trend toward lower plasma plasminogen activator inhibitor 1 with higher excretion of FA and DHFA in the WG group was found. Fecal FA was associated with baseline low Bifidobacteriales and Bacteroidetes abundances, whereas after WG consumption, it correlated with increased Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes but reduced Clostridium. TNF-α reduction correlated with increased Bacteroides and Lactobacillus. No effect of dietary interventions on anthropometric measurements and body composition was found.

Conclusions: WG wheat consumption significantly increased excreted FA and circulating DHFA. Bacterial communities influenced fecal FA and were modified by WG wheat consumption. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT01293175.

Keywords: bioavailability; ferulic acid; inflammation; obesity; wholegrain wheat.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cholesterol / blood
  • Diet
  • Dietary Fiber / administration & dosage*
  • Edible Grain
  • Feces / chemistry
  • Feces / microbiology
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood
  • Inflammation / diet therapy
  • Interleukin-10 / blood
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / diet therapy*
  • Overweight / diet therapy*
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / blood
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / genetics
  • Polyphenols / administration & dosage*
  • Polyphenols / blood
  • Polyphenols / urine
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Triticum*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / blood
  • Young Adult


  • Biomarkers
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
  • Polyphenols
  • SERPINE1 protein, human
  • Triglycerides
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Interleukin-10
  • Cholesterol

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT01293175