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Powers of wheat grass may be hard to swallow

Capsules | SUPPLEMENTS

June 16, 2003

Wheat grass has long been planted in pastures for livestock. In recent years, wheat grass juice and powder -- made from the young sprout stage of full-grown wheat -- have become popular ingredients in health food drinks. Wheat grass contains numerous vitamins and minerals, including potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc.

Uses: Much has been made about the powers of wheat grass -- that it prevents cavities, lowers cholesterol, heals wounds, stops hair from graying, aids digestion and cures cancer -- but no solid evidence supports these claims.

Dose: 3.5 grams in tablet or powder form or 2 to 4 ounces of juice.

Precautions: Although wheat grass contains several vitamins, the amounts are small, so supplements and juice shouldn't be used to replace fruits and vegetables in the diet. Wheat grass pills and powders also may not contain the fiber and other ingredients that the grass does. People taking the blood-thinner warfarin should avoid wheat grass supplements, which contain significant amounts of vitamin K, which can alter the drug's effectiveness. Wheat grass generally is considered safe.

Research: Grass extracts have shown anti-cancer properties in laboratory studies, but little research has been done on the effects of wheat grass in humans. There is some evidence that wheat grass may help treat ulcerative colitis, but further research is needed.

Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.

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-- Elena Conis

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