Fermented rice bran helps to fight cancer


Rice is the staple food for half of the world population. It is being consumed regularly worldwide, especially in East and South Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and the West Indies, contributing to one fifth of the calories consumed worldwide by the human [1]. However, rice is mostly consumed in the form of white rice, with the outer layers of the rice kernels (husk, bran, and germ) removed through the process of milling.

Brown Rice | by Dani and Rob (flickr.com)
Brown Rice | by Dani and Rob (flickr.com)

The milling process causes a significant loss of dietary fibres as well as a number of B vitamins and minerals that is found in the outer germs and bran layers [2]. Therefore, by consuming only white rice, we missed out a lot of goodness of what rice can offer to us. Rice bran, in particular, is not only rich in nutrients (dietary fibres, minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids) but also many bioactive phytochemicals that are highly beneficial to health (see table 1). In here, we will discuss the cancer preventive activities of fermented rice bran in general, and the efficacy of a specific fermented rice bran supplement, namely Biobran MGN-3, in supporting cancer treatment.

[table caption=”Table 1. Components found in rice bran” colalign=”left|left”]
Category, Bioactive compounds
Dietary fibres, “Cellulose, hemicellulose, pectin, arabinoxylan, lignin, and β-glucan”
Vitamins, “B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, folic acids), Vitamin E (α-tocopherol, γ-tocopherol)”
Essential Amino Acids, “Tryptophan, histidine, cysteine, and arginine”
Minerals, “Iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, copper”
Phytochemicals, “γ-oryzanol, ferulic acid, caffeic acid, tricin, coumaric acid, phytic acid”

Fermented rice bran and its cancer preventive activities

Hongqu 2
Red yeast rice is a type of fermented rice product which is used in TCM as a medicine
Even though rice bran is packed with many phytochemicals that can be potentially beneficial to health, many of them, such as ferulic acid, cannot be absorbed by human digestive systems due to the its complex structure [3]. Fortunately, our ancestors had handed down the secret recipe to unlock the goodness of rice bran: fermentation. It is through the fermentation process that these phytochemicals can be broken down into more bioavailable forms. In many East Asian cultures, fermented rice has been used for generations as both food and medicine. For example, Jiu Niang (酒酿) is a traditional fermented glutinous rice dessert in China; Rice Koji, which is rice fermented with fungus, is the most important ingredient to make miso and sakae in Japan. Hong qu (红麴) or red yeast rice, is an ancient herb used to strengthen the Spleen and Stomach in Traditional Chinese Medicine [4]. Not surprisingly, fermented rice products have become popular health foods these days. A simple recipe for making fermented brown rice is available over the internet [5] and reproduced in table 2.

[table caption=”Table 2 How to Ferment Brown Rice by Sheila Smitt” colalign=”left|left”]
Step, Instruction
Step 1, “Wash 2 cups of brown rice in water. Remove the floating husks by decanting the water. Drain the rice in a colander.”
Step 2, “Transfer the rice to a large pot. Fill it with dechlorinated water until the water level rises 1 or 2 inches above the rice.”
Step 3, “Cover the pot and leave it to stand for 24 hours.”
Step 4, “Decant 10 percent of the soaking water into a glass container. Close the lid on the container and store it in a fridge.”
Step 5, “Drain the fermented rice in a colander. Add fresh water and cook.”

Rice bran is the outer layer of rice removed through the milling process. (Photo by Phu Thinh Co/flikr)
Rice bran is the outer layer of rice removed through the milling process. (Photo by Phu Thinh Co/flikr)

Research now also shows that fermented rice bran also possesses cancer fighting properties. The process of fermenting rice bran with bacterial or fungal agents has been found to be able to beneficially alter its bioactivity. Results from several in vivo studies (using animal models) has shown that fermented rice bran exhibits cancer preventive activities for a number of cancer types including colon, gastric, lung, oral, bladder, and oesophageal [3]. Through in vitro studies (using cultured cells), we have also learned that various bioactive compounds in fermented rice bran can stop cancer cells from spreading, induce cell death, reduce chronic inflammation, protect against free radicals, and active enzymes to detoxify cancer cells [3]. Hence, fermented rice bran can be an important dietary supplement to prevent cancer and to support cancer treatment.

Biobran MGN-3 for cancer treatment support

One of the most studied fermented rice bran supplement is Biobran MGN-3 (with its full name being Biobran MGN-3 arabinoxylan compound). This is a compound derived from the fermentation of rice bran with enzymes from the shiitake mushroom. Biobran MGN-3 was first developed in Japan in 1992 as a supplement to boost the body’s immune system [6]. This compound has received much interest in cancer research on its ability to strengthen the body’s immune response towards cancer cells and in its ability to improve the efficacy of drugs used in chemotherapy. Currently, the results obtained from in vivo and in vitro studies, as well as several randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are promising.

Strengthening immune response

In terms of enhancing immune response, Biobran MGN-3 can increase the activity of natural killer (NK) cells in the body. The NK cells play a critical role in the body to protect us against cancer [7]. These cells circulate in our body and constantly look out for cancer cells and virus-infected cells through their unique receptors. Once an infected cell is found, they will release specialized proteins that can destroy the infected cell, thus effectively prevent the spread of cancer. This cell-killing activity is called cytotoxic. The level of cytotoxic activity of NK cells in the body has been linked to cancer risk. An 11-year follow-up study of 3625 residents of a Japanese population has shown that medium and high cytotoxic activity of NK cells is associated with reduced cancer risk, whereas low activity is associated with increased cancer risk [8]. In cancer patients, the cytotoxic activity of the NK cells is found to be significantly reduced even though the number of NK cells remains the same [9]. Furthermore, highly effective NK cells in cancer patients are also associated with better treatment outcomes [10]. In other words, the more effective a patient’s NK cells can be, the higher the chance for him/her to survive cancer.  Thus, increasing the cytotoxic activity of NK cells in cancer patients can help to prevent and fight cancers.  Research into Biobran MGN-3 through in vivo and in vitro studies from the past decade has confirmed that it can significantly increase the cytotoxic activity of the NK cells to destroy cancer cells in the body overnight [11].  As such, supplementing cancer patients with Biobran MGN-3 can help to improve their NK cells’ activities, which can potentially improve their treatment outcomes.

Cancer cells (1)
Cancer cells can be destroyed by the cytotoxic activity of the body’s NK cells

Supporting chemotherapy treatment

It is important to note that Biobran MGN-3 is not a cancer-killing compound by itself. It works primarily to enhance the cancer-killing abilities of both the body’s immune system, as well as chemotherapy drugs. In the treatment of breast cancer, Biobran MGN-3 has been shown to improve the efficacy of two chemotherapy drugs, daunorubicin and paclitaxel, in killing cancer cells by multiple-fold [12, 13]. Results from a 3-year double-blinded RCT with 68 liver cancer patients shows that group of patients taking Biobran MGN-3 together with chemotherapy have lower recurrence of the disease, higher survival after the second year, significantly lower level of alpha-fetoprotein cancer marker, and a significant decrease in tumour volume, when compared to the control group which receive only chemotherapy [14]. Furthermore, another RCT with 50 breast cancer patients also shows that taking 3g/day of Biobran MGN-3 one week before and one week after chemotherapy helps to reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy. Patients who took Biobran MGN-3 shown a reduction in tiredness, anorexia, vomiting and hair loss [15]. Therefore, Biobran MGN-3 is able to not only improve the efficacy of chemotherapy, both also reduce the unwanted side-effects.


Rice bran is not only packed with many nutrients such as dietary fibres, minerals, vitamins, and essential amino acids, but also with many phytochemicals that can be beneficial to health. Fermentation process helps to increase the bioavailability of these phytochemicals. Recent research has shown that fermented rice bran exhibits many cancer preventive activities against a number of cancer types including colon, gastric, lung, oral, bladder, and oesophageal. Biobran MGN-3, a specific fermented rice bran compound, has been shown to be able to enhance the body’s immune response to destroy cancer cells, through upregulating the NK cells’ cytotoxic activity. Studies from in vivo, in vitro, and RCT also show that Biobran MGN-3 can improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and help to reduce side-effects.

In conclusion, fermented rice bran should be considered as a dietary supplement to help prevent cancer in the general population. For cancer patients, Biobran MGN-3 is a promising fermented rice bran compound that can be used to enhance the treatment effect chemotherapy and improve survival rates. Nevertheless, further research through long term, high quality RCT is still required to confirm and validate the therapeutic use of Biobran MGN-3 as an adjunct therapy for cancer treatment.

For many years, I have been recommending Biobran/Lentin Plus for cancer patients to improve their immune system to fight cancer. While many patients benefited from this amazing fermented rice bran supplement in their healing journey, not all patients gave credence to my advice. Not surprisingly, since cancer patients often receive ...


Biobran MGN-3 is a proprietary product manufactured by Daiwa Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd, in Tokyo, Japan. It is sold in many countries under different brand names, which include Lentin Plus (Singapore, Philippines), BioBran (Malaysia), and Biomedica Ribraxx (Australia).

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  2. Muthayya, S., Sugimoto, J.D., Montgomery, S., & Maberly, G.F. (2014). An overview of global rice production, supply, trade, and consumption. Annals of The New York Academy of Sciences, 1324, 7-14. http://doi.org/10.1111/nyas.12540
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  5. Smitt, S. (22 Dec, 2015). How to ferment brown rice. Retrieved 4 May 2016 from http://www.livestrong.com/article/486594-how-to-ferment-brown-rice/
  6. Biobran MGN-3 – An Overview (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.biobran.org/overview/index.html
  7. Wu, J. & Lanier, L. L. (2003). Natural killer cells and cancer. Advances in Cancer Research, 90, 127-156.
  8. Imai, K., Matsuyama, S., Miyake, S., Suga, K., & Nakachi, K. (2000). Natural cytotoxic activity of peripheral-blood lymphocytes and cancer incidence: an 11-year follow-up study of a general population. Lancet, 356(9244), 1795-1799.
  9. Verma, C., Kaewkangsadan, V., Eremin, J. M., Cowley, G. P., Ilyas, M., El-Sheemy, M. A., & Eremin, O. (2015). Natural killer (NK) cell profiles in blood and tumour in women with large and locally advanced breast cancer (LLABC) and their contribution to a pathological complete response (PCR) in the tumour following neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC): differential restoration of blood profiles by NAC and surgery. Journal of Translational Medicine, 13, 180. http://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-015-0535-8
  10. Pasero, C., Gravis, G., Granjeaud, S., Guerin, M., Thomassin-Piana, J., Rocchi, P., … Olive, D. (2015). Highly effective NK cells are associated with good prognosis in patients with metastatic prostate cancer. Oncotarget, 6(16), 14360–14373.
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  12. Ghoneum, M., Badr El-Din, N.K., Ali, D.A., El-Dein, M.A. (2014). Modified arabinoxylan from rice bran, MGN-3/biobran, sensitizes metastatic breast cancer cells to paclitaxel in vitro. Anticancer Research, 34(1), 81-87.
  13. Gollapudi, S., & Ghoneum M. (2008). MGN-3/Biobran, modified arabinoxylan from rice bran, sensitizes human breast cancer cells to chemotherapeutic agent, daunorubicin. Cancer Detection and Prevention, 32(1), 1-6. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.cdp.2008.02.006
  14. Bang, M.H., van Riep T., Thinh, N.T., Song le, H., Dung, T.T., van Truong, L., … , Ghoneum, M. (2010). Arabinoxylan rice bran (MGN-3) enhances the effects of interventional therapies for the treatment of hepatocellular carcinoma: a three-year randomized clinical trial. Anticancer Research, 30(12), 5145-5151.
  15. Masood, A.I., Sheikh, R., Anwer, R.A. (2012). Effect of “Biobran MGN-3″ in reducing side effects of chemotherapy in breast cancer patients. Professional Medical Journal, 20(1), 13-16.

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