Researchers are increasingly finding that internal consumption and topical application of wheat germ ceramides have multiple health-promoting effects upon the skin. These include skin hydration, fewer skin infections and relief from eczema and dermatitis.
Clinical studies document ceramide effects
The use of wheat-based, or wheat germ oil-based creams and supplements for drying, aging skin has now been clinically tested. For example, French researchers tested 51 women who were between 20 and 63 years old with a wheat oil extract for three months. Half the group was given a placebo and the other half was given 350 milligrams of the wheat oil extract.
The extract was given internally only.
After the three months, there was a significant improvement in skin dryness and redness among the wheat oil extract group. The extract also resulted in reduced roughness and other signs of dryness. The wheat oil extract group saw an increase of 35 percent in skin hydration while the placebo group showed a mere one percent.
Eczema and dermatitis helped
This is balanced by a study by researchers from Australia’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute at the Royal Children’s Hospital in Parkville. Here 10 infants with a family history of eczema and skin allergies were given a cream containing phytoceramide oil for six weeks. The researchers found the children responded well to the cream and had a reduction in eczema. For a couple of the children, eczema occurred only in places where the cream was not applied.
Phytoceramides help protect against UV damage
Research from India’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research found that ceramides help protect the skin from damage from UV-radiation. They wrote that ceramides provide a facility for protecting the skin cells against oxidation from radiation effects.
Research from the Charles University in Prague found that ceramides provide a double-bonding lipid membrane between and around skin cells that decrease their permeability.
Ceramides help protect against skin infections
This issue of permeability is important when considering skin infections. Nearly a decade ago research from the Medical School at the University of California at San Francisco found that ceramides regulate the skin cells’ water barrier and those with skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis were found to have a reduction in this barrier and lower levels of ceramides.
They also found that skin diseases also typically come with reductions in ceramide levels, often symptomized by increased levels of ceramide-degrading enzymes like ceramidase and sphingomyelin deacylase.
The researchers concluded that the application of topical ceramides will likely help prevent such deficiency. They also found that ceramides appear to inhibit elastase enzymes known implicated in causing wrinkles.
But the research such as that mentioned above showing that ceramides are significantly provided to the skin through consumption.
Other natural sources of ceramides
There are now several supplemented forms of ceramides, both for topical and internal consumption. Good sources of phytoceramides include wheat, millet, rice, soybeans and spinach and others. Wheat germ oil contains about 6% glycolipids, of which ceramides predominantly make up. Ceramides are classified as sphingolipids, which are utilized in the body as signaling and protective fats – smart fats if you will.
Wheat germ oil can be applied to the skin as well as taken internally.
The outer epidermis layer of skin – the stratum corneum – is made up of primarily keratinocytes. Surrounding the keratinocytes is an intercellular substance made up of cholesterol and free fatty acids. Ceramides make up between 40 and 50 percent of this intercellular material. Ceramides make up the largest portion of lipids among healthy skin cells.
Skolová B, Jandovská K, Pullmannová P, Tesař O, Roh J, Hrabálek A, Vávrová K. The role of the trans double bond in skin barrier sphingolipids: permeability and infrared spectroscopic study of model ceramide and dihydroceramide membranes. Langmuir. 2014 May 20;30(19):5527-35. doi: 10.1021/la500622f.
Guillou S, Ghabri S, Jannot C, Gaillard E, Lamour I, Boisnic S. The moisturizing effect of a wheat extract food supplement on women’s skin: a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Apr;33(2):138-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00600.x.
Lowe AJ, Tang ML, Dharmage SC, Varigos G, Forster D, Gurrin LC, Robertson CF, Abramson MJ, Allen KJ, Su J. A phase I study of daily treatment with a ceramide-dominant triple lipid mixture commencing in neonates. BMC Dermatol. 2012 Apr 4;12:3. doi: 10.1186/1471-5945-12-3.
Natarajan VT, Ganju P, Ramkumar A, Grover R, Gokhale RS. Multifaceted pathways protect human skin from UV radiation. Nat Chem Biol. 2014 Jul;10(7):542-51. doi: 10.1038/nchembio.1548.
Simpson E, Böhling A, Bielfeldt S, Bosc C, Kerrouche N. Improvement of skin barrier function in atopic dermatitis patients with a new moisturizer containing a ceramide precursor. J Dermatolog Treat. 2013 Apr;24(2):122-5. doi: 10.3109/09546634.2012.713461.
Choi MJ, Maibach HI. Role of ceramides in barrier function of healthy and diseased skin. Am J Clin Dermatol. 2005;6(4):215-23.
Ronald G. Udell. FDA Docket: New Dietary Ingredient Notification – 21 C.F.R. sec. 190.6, March 7, 2005.
Case Adams is a California Naturopath and a Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and diplomas in Homeopathy, Aromatherapy, Bach Flower Remedies, Blood Chemistry, Clinical Nutritional Counseling and Colon Hydrotherapy. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies.