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Probing Rice Bran's Cancer-fighting Potential

By Marcia Wood
September 8, 2000

The health-promoting benefits of rice bran--the nutritious, light-brown layer that covers the familiar white kernel--might be enhanced as a result of a new study led by Agricultural Research Service scientists. Agency researchers at Albany, Calif., will investigate various food-processing techniques to find out whether specific technologies convert key compounds of bran into forms that are easier for the body to absorb and use.

The investigation will look at two different kinds of rice bran fiber and at antioxidant compounds already known to prevent formation of harmful molecules known as free radicals.

Rice bran adds a rich, hearty, natural flavor to breads, breakfast cereals, crackers, cookies and other foods, according to Wallace H. Yokoyama of the ARS Western Regional Research Center at Albany. He leads the new research, which is being conducted under a new cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with The Rice Foundation, Houston, Texas. Paul A. Davis of the University of California, Davis, Medical Center in Sacramento, Calif., will also collaborate.

In preliminary experiments with wheat, Yokoyama and Davis showed that different techniques for processing wheat bran into cereals made a significant difference in reducing the incidence of a colon cancer indicator in laboratory rats. Their new work with rice will also track colon cancer incidence in rats. Plans call for using three or four variations in processing the bran with a standard piece of food-processing equipment known as an extruder.

Yokoyama outlined the new research today at the Western Regional Research Center's Symposium and Exposition. The event, marking the 60th anniversary of the center, included tours of newly renovated laboratories and a look at the center's pilot-scale manufacturing facility--also scheduled for major renovation.

ARS is USDA's chief research arm.

Scientific contact: Wallace H. Yokoyama, ARS Western Regional Research Center, Albany, Calif.; phone (510) 559-5695, fax (510) 559-5777,