The best blog for current news in nutrition and wellness
Lectin Lesson 1: What Are Lectins?
January 29, 2018
References: Int Jr of Plant Chem, Jr Cereal Sci, Nutrients,
Ever had someone tell you that they are allergic to wheat? You scoff and say they don't have celiac disease. And they don't. They are sensitive to LECTINS. And lots of people are. If you feel your tummy upset when you eat bread or wheat, read on. This is for you. Actually, this is for all of us.
What are lectins? Plants make them to deter animals and insects from eating the plant. They are poisons. They are plants main way to protecting themselves. And plants have been very clever in figuring out how to do that over millennia. They have devised may lectins that look very close to the normal proteins inside of animals, but not quite the same. You see, if you make a close copy that messes up the animal by making fake signals, you make it feel sick when it eats you. So it stops eating you.
What did we do with wheat? In the 1950s, Borlag crossed old fashioned wheat with two grasses to make wheat go from the 14 chromosomes of old fashioned natural wheat to the 42 chromosomes of modern wheat. All the lectins in grasses got carried along into the new wheat. Now mind you, lectins are at very tiny levels. They aren't the main show like carbs, or protein, or fat. They are like hormones, active at extremely low doses. This is how they have gotten by below the redar up till now. This is why you haven't heard about them.
But lectins work exactly at that level. They act at very tiny doses like trace hormones. In your body you have millions of TLRs, Toll Receptor Proteins that are basically bar code readers. They are lining your blood vessels looking for invading bacteria and viruses and poisons. When their bar code gets matched with an invading protein, they stimulate the making of chemical signals to call in help. Those signals are called cytokines and your body makes a whole mist of the cytokines. There are dozens, if not hundreds of cytokines that all rise in a chorus of response to make an integrated immune reaction to the invader.
That immune response is meant to make an animal avoid that plant. The animal and plant, living in the same ecosystem get used to each other. They learn to tolerate, and accommodate each other. The animal's gut bacteria develop a tolerance and acceptance of the plants lectin poisons, and start making a healthy immune reaction that is good, when done in tiny doses.
That all happens when animals live in the same ecosystem and eat the same food for millions of years. Humans did that up till about a million years ago. Then we learned to cook. Cooking inactivates a lot of lectins, so humans could add many more foods to their diet. All was well and good, as long as we humans were living in Africa and the Mediterranean, where we had reliable, accommodated foods. But then the thunderbolt happened. We learned to grow wheat and lentils in the Levant. 10,000 years ago, we learned agriculture. This allowed us to make cities and armies and increase our population. We didn't have to go hunting game and could have farms and armies and kings. But we were eating a new food our guts weren't really used to. The lectins really weren't all that good for us. Over the next 1000 years, we lost a foot in height, a decade in longevity, 15% off the size of our brain but eating lectin rich foods instead of wild game. But the bargain with the devil was already done, civilization had begun. What would come next?
Read next week.
WWW.What will work for me. We all need to learn about lectins and their subtle but incredibly perverse effect. This applies to me and you. The scope of lectins is really the story of all our modern diseases. This is the underpinnings of inflammation, the engine that drives our common modern illnesses. Read on. We need to know this.
What are lectins? Answer: trace substances, usually proteins made by plants that function to deter insects and animals from eating the plant.
Plants and the animals that eat them get used to each other over million of years. T or F Answer: True. So humans come out of Africa and have gut bacteria that are familiar with African plants.
How do lectins do their function? Answer: they have often evolved to look quite similar to proteins inside the animal: close but not quite so they make dysfunctional actions that make the animal sick.
Lectins are detected in animals by their "what" system? Answer: TRP or Toll Receptor Proteins lining all blood vessels.
When humans started eating wheat and lentils in the Fertile Crescent 10,000 years ago, what happened. Answer: Civilization got started in cities and settlements, but humans also got shorter with smaller brains. Wheat and lentils both contained new lentils previously unknown to humans. 10,000 years is not enough time to evolve new defenses to new lectins.