Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Lectin : Friend or Foe?

The anti-grain zealots have come up with a new bad guy to attack and blame on grain consumption. They even claim that this is a factor in many diseases. However, if you read their article carefully, you will see that all of this is guessing in the dark, and taking things out of context.

Note that they admit that wheat is a very complex plant, capable of 23,000 unique proteins. And yet, they have decided to isolate one of them and see what kind of damage it could do all by itself.

They have singled out lectin as the bad guy.

Note also that every detrimental effect on the human body that they claim is caused by lectin, has only been observed in people who eat processed grains, not whole grains.

But they still insist that whole grains are worse than processed grains, because they contain more lectin.

It is kind of like saying that eating a whole apple would be much worse than just eating the seeds of the apple, because you will get more arsenic. While it is true, it has nothing to do with the health effects of eating an apple. (No, I don't suggest eating only the seeds of an apple. Nor does anyone else that I know of.)

Look up lectin in wikipedia and you will find that it has many important biological functions.

Here is why they say lectin is the bad guy:
  1. May be pro-inflammatory.
  2. May directly bind to and activate white blood cells.
  3. May pass through the blood brain barrier pulling bound substances with it.
  4. Capable of inducing either cell cycle arrest or programmed cell death.
  5. May cause cells to divide or inhibit cell division.
  6. May cause platelet activation and aggregation.
  7. May bind to the surface of villi in the gastrointestinal tract (causing growth).
  8. May decrease levels of heat shock proteins in gut epithelial cells.
  9. May enter cells in the same way that viruses can.
Well, lets take another look at that list. But instead of assuming the worst, let's think about balance in the human body. We all know that balance in the body is the key to health. We must have balancing influences for all functions.
  1. Inflammation is an important bodily function.
  2. White blood cell activation and transport are very important to our immune function.
  3. It is important to get many substances across the blood brain barrier.
  4. Cell cycle arrest and cell death are particularly important in fighting any cancer.
  5. Cell division is also very important, and yet stopping the division is just as important.
  6. Platelet activation and aggregation is what keeps us from bleeding to death.
  7. Villi are very important to digestion, it is imperative to keep their functions optimal.
  8. I would hate to get an over abundance of heat shock proteins in my gut.
  9. It actually competes with viruses for access to cells, helping to keeping us healthy.
So you see that, again, it all comes down to balance. Trying to micromanage the nutrients put into the human body is never a good idea. It can only cause imbalance.

We see time and time again that those who eat whole grains (particularly wheat), which cause balance in the human body, are always healthier than those who eat processed grains.

You may also note that those who eliminate grains from their diets, generally continue to have worsening health problems. In their mind this requires more and more supplements of one kind or another, but if they would just get back to eating whole foods, and particularly grains, most of their health problems would fade away.

Any time you take any one constituent of a whole food and isolate it, it is a detrimental thing. But eating the whole food, with all it's parts intact, you get balance and benefit.

Using the same logic, why don't these anti-grain fanatics also blacklist :
  1. Mustard, you can create toxic gas from parts of it.
  2. Peaches, their pits contain poison.
  3. Car brakes, they don't allow the car to go anywhere.
  4. Chiropractors, they can put your body out of alignment.
  5. Dentists, they drill holes in your teeth.
  6. MDs, they are always seen around sick and dying people.
  7. Water, it can suffocate you.
  8. etc.
  9. etc.
  10. etc.
Such nonsense!

If you haven't already, please read my recent post on whole grains (click here).

And of course you should also read about the number one must make resolution (click here).

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