Friday, November 02, 2007

How toxic is wheat?

Well, the first point is that Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA), the main lectin in wheat, is an insulin mimetic in tissue culture. A very good insulin mimetic. If you want to give someone, male or female, that "ten-months-pregnant" look you can either use masses of insulin, as produced by an insulinoma or perhaps have them take an insulin mimetic like WGA by mouth with every meal...

But does WGA, a protein, cross from the gut in to the blood stream intact to then have a biological effect? Well, that depends on who you ask and what dose you give. Pusztai, funded by the Scottish equivalent of DEFRA, says that, at high doses, WGA not only crosses in to the blood stream but also glues itself to the lining of blood vessels and lymphatics. I cannot think of a better way of producing an autoimmune vasculitis than sticking WGA to your blood vessels. Or of producing a massive insulin like effect, ie beer gut.

Another group of researchers, funded by the Italian government this time, say WGA doesn't cross their artificial model of the gut lining. They also found WGA wasn't heat stable, in contrast to Pusztai. But both groups do agree that WGA trashes the gut lining cells.

So these two research groups disagree about the penetration of wheat toxicity in to the body, but neither argues with the toxicity per se. I believe Pusztai is correct, especially for those poor people who regard wheatgerm, with its lectin load, as a health food. Apparently they take it in multigram doses. No thanks.

That's before we consider the effect of gliadin from wheat on gut permeability disrupting the tight junctions between enterocytes. Damaging the integrity of the gut allows all sorts of dietary proteins to gain access to the blood stream and, obviously, the immune system. I guess it helps WGA in to the circulation too.

It probably helps the two insulin stimulating peptides derived from the partial digestion of gluten in to the blood stream too.

It probably also helps WP5212 in to the path of the immune system of potential type one diabetics, allowing them to achieve their full disease potential.

I won't mention coeliac disease and schizophrenia. Or gluten ataxia. Or a host of other problems.

Today a drug rep provided pizza for lunch at work. I ate my chocolate and drank my fermented cream sitting alongside the 4 giant pizzas in the rest room. Several people asked if I wasn't tempted to indulge.

Too much information, too much toxicity and ZERO temptation.

There is no doubt about the toxicity of wheat.



Jeremiah said...

Hey Peter,

I'm fairly new to your blog, so you'll have to forgive me as my knowledge of many things biochemical is infantile. I'm currently an undergraduate in the United States studying Chemistry, with a sub-focus in biology, so I can usually handle basic medicine jargon. Anyhow...

Personal story: I'm getting tested for Celiac disease soon; I have a consultation with an gastroenterologist in less than a week. I'm worried, though. I had been grain-free since the middle of September. I'm worried that my anti-endomysium and anti-tissue transglutaminase antibody counts will be too low for a positive result, assuming I do have Celiac. I'm also worried that my villi have been recovering, to the point where an intestinal biopsy would turn out ambiguous, which it seems gastros don't rather enjoy that touch of gray.

So what have I been doing to allay my fears? Committing masochistic acts of desperation on my gut: eating up to one loaf of dense whole wheat bread a day, hoping to raise my antibody count and destroy my villi. Sounds crazy. It probably is.

My main purpose for writing this comment, though, is to share with you a quote from a paper I ran into searching "Wheat Germ Agglutinin" on good ol' Google.

"Wheat germ agglutinin (WGA) has widely been used as a tracer of neural circuits because of its ability to cross synapses."

Would WGA's ability to move right on down a neural pathway provide an explanation as to why gluten can cause ataxia and neuropathy?

Another personal story: When I eat wheat, sometime afterward (I haven't recorded times to really know how long it takes) I start to feel a tingling on the right side of my face. And the muscles on my right side become fairly tense and remain that way, enough so to where I have more trouble blinking my right eye than my left. After reading the quote I just provided, I wonder if WGA has anything to do with it...

Peter said...

Hi Jeremiah,

You are in that eternal quandary about getting a coeliac work up while currently avoiding gluten. My daughter postponed avoiding gluten until after her anti endomysial antibody test for exactly that reason. Despite still eating gluten at the time she had no antibodies anyway and, in the UK NHS, this means no GI biopsy. Stupid system, but that's the way we run the NHS.

A confirmed coeliac diagnosis would have been important for her as she was living on £40/week and she would have automatically qualified for free food if she had produced a positive test. This would have made a big financial impact. In many ways I'm glad she tested negative because the free food is junk food and she would never have sorted out her spinal issues on free junk food. As it is she is now on the economy version of the OD and healthy for the first time in years.

So, do you need to know if you can be given the official label of coeliac? If this is useful for you on a practical basis, eat the gluten and go for it. If it's just curiosity that drives you, here's my answer: You are human and alive, ergo you are gluten intolerant. Welcome, join the club, I'm afraid it's inclusive rather than exclusive!

Re odd unusual gluten toxicity; well I'd believe anything of gluten. Direct (non immune mediated) toxicity to the gut is routine. Why not to nerves? Looks like an interesting link. I'll go have a look see.



doctor_ostric said...

You write pretty amazing stuff, Peter. I really enjoy reading your blog, and I like your writing style. I like this post, and I will link to it in my blog. I appreciate your efforts.

Doug Ji said...

Wheat lectin has been identified to have a broad range of adverse effects beyond its insulin-mimetic properties:

[excerpt from Opening Pandora's Bread Box: The Critical Role of Wheat Lectin in Human Disease, by Sayer Ji]

WGA may be Pro-inflammatory

At exceedingly small concentrations (nanomolar) WGA stimulates the synthesis of pro-inflammatory chemical messengers (cytokines) including Interleukin 1, Interleukin 6 and Interleukin 8 in intestinal and immune cells.[4] WGA has been shown to induce NADPH-Oxidase in human neutrophils associated with the “respiratory burst” that results in the release of inflammatory free radicals called reactive oxygen species[5] WGA has been shown to play a causative role in patients with chronic thin gut inflammation.[6]

WGA may be Immunotoxic

WGA induces thymus atrophy in rats[7] and may directly bind to, and activate, leukocytes [8]. Anti-WGA antibodies in human sera have been shown to cross-react with other proteins, indicating that they may contribute to autoimmunity [9]. Indeed, WGA appears to play a role in the pathogenesis of celiac disease (CD) that is entirely distinct from that of gluten, due to significantly higher levels of IgG and IgA antibodies against WGA found in patients with CD, when compared with patients with other intestinal disorders. These antibodies have also shown not to cross-react with gluten antigens[10] [11]

WGA may be Neurotoxic


Peter said...


nancan said...

I would love to read more on your thoughts regarding gluten. Suddenly, or so it seems, I know several people who have become gluten sensitive in middle age, even from products that are low carb, with mostly wheat fiber as their base. I am one such. After going lchf I was still having some issues with headaches, joint pain, etc; since I stopped any and all things grain, I feel like a fog has lifted from within.

How does one "bump" a topic?

LobeliaJane said...

all most interesting, as I am the first to abhore Fast and/or pre-digested food and the appaliing amount of sugar added to American food, paricually Bread which ONLY requres that needed to raise the yeast ! When I emigrated in 1971 I was informed that the British ate incredible amounts of sugar then I discovered that such things as Birds Custard Powder and Lemon Meranque Filling required under the directions for American Consuption TWICE the ampount of sugar used by the British , and remember that for Custards etc the American Pint is a Quarter SMALLER than the Imperial one .
Weight gain is due mainly to these aspects of Diet along with Soda consumption and that of Chips, Dips & portion sizes.
I have lost, through Chronic Pain and a very active working schedule I have lost MORE weight than I should and as some of the easiest things for me to digest are such no nos as ( from scratch ) Cheese Sauces, with Whole Milk, full fat whatever, Porridge made with milk not water and as simple a bread as I can find other than sour dough which I do not care for, with Biutter on it along with any crackers I eat with Cheese or Pate AND a LOT of plainish imported Biscuits from Britain & the Continent. According to you and others I should not be Borderline mal-nourished which according to my frame & height I am. I also eat most meats, fish & poultry along with plenty of fruit, not many vegetables and am VERY, except for Pain from Career accidents Healthy.
In my opinion as an Animal Breeder it is the damage done to us and then bt Corporation Bottom Line Addiction which over the past century has altered so radically (and I will accept that the wheat we eat Has changed , try obtaining Wheat Straw of a decent stalk length) too fast for our Alimentary System to adapt.

Unknown said...

Apropos of Jeremiah's comment about face tingling & possible motor problems after consuming wheat:

I put a friend with very severe MS on a wheat-free diet ten years ago. (She was flat on her back in bed, & had to crawl to the bathroom on her elbows.) Within a year she was fully recovered symptomatically; her main brain lesion could no longer be found in scans; & her neck lesion was much-shrunken.