Vitamin E Versus Wheat Germ Oil

By Ezra Levin

Summary: The author of this report founded Viobin Corp, which developed wheat germ oil concentration methods. Fully referenced, the article declares that there is far more to wheat germ oil than alpha-tocopherol and that the effect delivered by natural vitamin E depends on much more than the isolated tocopherol. For instance, Levin writes, “It appears that, for the first time, evidence has been presented of the presence in wheat germ oil of a factor that exerts a beneficial effect in neuromuscular disturbances other than vitamin E [i.e., tocopherol].” Levin’s claims support Dr. Royal Lee’s contention that vitamins are synergistically combined complexes and not isolated chemicals. “For many years,” he adds, “we in our laboratory have suggested that research workers, in reporting their work. make a sharp distinction between vitamin E [tocopherol] and wheat germ oil. [The neuromuscular study] makes such differentiation imperative.” From the American Journal of Digestive Diseases, 1945. Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research reprint 9.

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Vitamin E Versus Wheat Germ Oil[spacer height=”20px”]

The literature reporting the advantages to be gained by the use of wheat germ oil, or vitamin E, in the treatment of various types of muscular disturbances is so confusing with respect to the type of material used that this note is submitted in the hope that it will aid in clarifying the situation.

This statement seems especially important in view of a recent report by Vogt-Moeller.1 In a symposium held in London in 1939, Vogt-Moeller stated, “Finally, let it be kept in mind that wheat germ oil, which so far has been the preparation most commonly employed for therapeutic trials, may contain many biologically active substances other than vitamin E, and one must consider the possibility that some of these may have contributed to the observed effects. Even though this appears to me rather unlikely, the question can soon be settled with certainty by repeating the experiments with pure tocopherols.”

In the recent work referred to above, Vogt-Moeller gives the results of just such an experiment. He points out that the various reports on the influence of vitamin E on neuromuscular disorders are confusing because vitamin E was used in some experiments, while wheat germ oil was used in others. It has been shown previously that wheat germ oil contains factors other than vitamin E.2 Certain investigatorspostulated that several factors may be involved in the positive results obtained in treating neuromuscular disturbances and that vitamin E was not alone in bringing about beneficial results.

Because Vogt-Moeller’s paper is not readily accessible in this country, a fairly detailed report of it is included in this communication.

Dogs attacked by the distemper virus usually develop typical neuromuscular symptoms. Vogt-Moeller planned an experiment involving ninety dogs affected by this disorder. All dogs, including the controls, were placed on a balanced diet [along] with a supplementary vitamin B complex preparation. Before instituting treatment, he waited until all dogs had developed the initial symptoms of distemper. These usually preceded the development of neuromuscular disturbances.

  • Thirty dogs constituted the control group.
  • Thirty dogs were injected daily with 10 mg of tocopherol (vitamin E).
  • Thirty dogs were injected daily with 5 cc of wheat germ oil, which contained approximately 10 mg of alpha-tocopherol.

It appears that for the first time evidence has been presented of the presence in wheat germ oil of a factor, other than vitamin E, that exerts a beneficial effect in neuromuscular disturbances. For many years we in our laboratory have suggested that research workers, in reporting their work, make a sharp distinction between vitamin E (tocopherol) and wheat germ oil. Vogt-Moeller’s work now makes such differentiation imperative.

The results are tabulated as follows:




Wheat Germ Oil

Total number of dogs




Number of dogs that died




Dogs that developed neuromuscular symptoms and died




Dogs that developed neuromuscular symptoms and survived




Total number of dogs that developed neuromuscular symptoms




[spacer height=”20px”]The effect of Vogt-Moeller’s work will be far reaching, for it will demand a reexamination, reappraisal, and in many instances a repetition of much of the work already done in this field. Research has long been subjected to such penalties, but while it makes progress slow, it assures an ever closer approximation of the truth.

The various reports in which the statement is made that vitamin E does not control habitual abortion can no longer be given full credence. The work of Currie4 and others5,6,7 must somehow be fitted into the picture. Furthermore, it would seem doubt should be given to the statements that vitamin E will not help cows and sows to conceive rather than to the reports of Vogt-Moeller8 and others9–13 that wheat germ oil is successful in treating “shy breeding.”

Among those reports in which the statement is made that it is not possible to confirm a given work even when using wheat germ oil, it would be desirable to know something about the nature of the oil used. Was the oil “cold pressed” or solvent extracted? What were the temperatures involved? What was the nature of the solvent used? What was the age of the oil? To a great degree, the answers to these questions hinge mainly on two points, namely, the stability of the oil and the presence of substances in the oil other than the tocopherols. The incorporation of tocopherols other than the alpha form in vitamin E concentrates might be considered an admission of the fact that the performance of vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) was disappointing.

Mackenzie, Mackenzie, and McCollum14 indicate the importance of stability. In their work the pressed oil was unfit for making their concentrate of vitamin E; only the solvent-extracted oil could be used. Shute15 states that the wheat germ oil he used (pressed) loses its value for treating habitual abortion in eight days unless it is kept in the cold.

Pressed wheat germ oil is obviously not the same product as solvent-extracted wheat germ oil. It is important to note that Currie’s work was done with a concentrate of a solvent-extracted oil (Glaxo). A similar product was used by Hain and Sym16 in their work on the control of menopause flushes. Other investigators have called attention to the difference in character of extracted and pressed oils.17

Yet it should not be assumed that a pressed wheat germ oil will not be effective. These considerations emphasize the point made above—that the wheat germ oil should be stable, whether it is pressed or solvent extracted. Should the factor postulated by Vogt-Moeller be unstable, there is a likelihood that this [non-tocopherol] factor is not present in wheat germ oil that has a high free fatty acid content or a high peroxide value.

It is commonly understood that vitamin E is unstable. On the contrary vitamin E in foods is quite stable. It is far more stable than vitamin A. In our own laboratory, rancid pressed wheat germ oil with a 30 m.e. peroxide value and 18 percent f.f.a. (free fatty acid) revealed three-fourths of the quantity of vitamin E present in pressed oil containing 2 percent f.f.a. and a 3 m.e. peroxide value. Ordinary livestock feed subjected to room temperature for one year retains adequate vitamin E, as we understand livestock requirement. This stability of vitamin E and its widespread occurrence in foods should be considered in the light of Shute’s views on the instability of the factor that controls habitual abortion. May it be that this factor is not vitamin E at all?

It appears that studies involving vitamin E should specifically state the manner in which the vitamin was prepared, its form, and its source, as well as the stability of the material used. Tests should be made for its stability throughout the course of the experiment.

Finally, the fact that a stable wheat germ oil appears to be effective in preventing neuromuscular disorders in dogs affected by distemper, while vitamin E alone seems ineffective, should stimulate studies to elucidate further Vogt-Moeller’s suggestion that solvent-extracted, stable wheat germ oil contains factors other than the tocopherols that exert a beneficial effect in such disturbances.

It must be concluded that dismissal of wheat germ oil as an effective aid to breeding of livestock and as an aid to contributing to viability of the young—by those who have assumed that it is ineffective because there is plenty of vitamin E in most rations or by those who have had negative results with a wheat germ oil of variable and questionable origin and undetermined stability—is unwarranted. Only controlled experiments with a wheat germ oil of known stability and of constant and satisfactory origin can clarify this important problem.

By Ezra Levin, MA, Monticello, Illinois. Reprinted from American Journal of Digestive Diseases, Vol. 12, No. 1, January 1945, by the Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research. Submitted for publication June 27, 1944.


1. Vogt-Moeller, P. Tierartzl. Rundschau, 48:274, 1942.
2. Martin, G.J. J. Nutrition, 13:679, 1937.
3. Goetsch, M., and Ritzmann, J. J. Nutrition, 17:371, 1939.
4. Currie, D.W. Brit. Med. J., II, 1218, 1937.
5. Vogt-Moeller. P. Klin. Wschr., 15, 1883, 1936.
6. MacDonald, C.R. “Report of Conference on Vitamin E.” British Medical Society, 1, 943, 1939.
7. Cromer, J.K. Med. Ann. Dist. Columbia, 7, 145, 1938.
8. Vogt-Moeller, P., and Bay, F. The Veterinary J., 87. 165, 1931.
9. Tutt, J.P. The Veterinary J., 89, 416, 1933.
10. Vogt-Moeller, P. “Vitamin E: A Symposium.” Chem. Publ. Co., page 57, 1939.
11. Lehmke, H., Berl. U. Munch. Tierartzl. Wschr., 367, 1936.
12. Strassl., Berl. U. Munch. Tierartzl. Wschr., 397, 1938.
13. Schioppa, L. Zeit. F. Vitmforsch., 8, 132, 1938.
14. Mackenzie, C.G., Mackenzie, Julia B., and McCollum, E.V. Public Health Reports, 53, 1779, 1938.
15. Shute, E. Amer. J. Obst. and Gynec., 35, 609, 1938.
16. Hain A.M., and Sym, J.C.B. British Medical J., 8, July 3, 1943.
17. Parker, W.E., Neish, A.C., and McFarlane, W.D. Can. J. Res., 19, 20, 1941.

Reprint 9
Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53201

Printed in the U.S.A.

Note: Lee Foundation for Nutritional Research is a nonprofit, public-service institution, chartered to investigate and disseminate nutritional information. The attached publication is not literature or labeling for any product, nor shall it be employed as such by anyone. In accordance with the right of freedom of the press guaranteed to the Foundation by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, the attached publication is issued and distributed for informational purposes.


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