Thursday, November 02, 2006

Food Pyramids, food and pyramids

The people who built the Egyptian pyramids developed arthritis. That's what you might expect from pushing around 20 tonne blocks of stone with a few levers. There is an very interesting article on the excavation of the graves of pyramid builders in National Geographic. They are not talking about the pharaoh and the like, but about the people doing the donkey work.

To an archeologist this arthritis does not come as a surprise. Hard labour should produce lots of wear and tear. What is a little more strange is the fact that the Egyptian women were also severely affected. There are no depictions of women moving stone blocks. What is even stranger is that much of the arthritis is found in the women's necks. How heavy a water jug do you have to put on your head, and for how long, to develop severe degenerative arthritis of your cervical spine?

The answer is you don't have to do it at all. Spinal arthritis is rife in the modern, sedentary, middle classes of London or any other city. How many people do you know who are free of back problems? You do not need to be moving pyramid blocks to develop ankylosing spondylitis. But you do need to eat grain.

There is a fairly innocent little bug called klebsiella pneumoniae which lives not only in the soil but in the intestine of many of us, probably most of us. It is a niche bacterium which exploits a particular food source. It eats starch, but not just any starch. Starch is made of long chains of glucose. The chains are branched. At the branch points there are triplets of glucose which will not fit in to the normal digestive machinery possessed by human beings, so they get left undigested. Klebsiella eats these triplets of glucose. It has a special enzyme, pullulanase, to break them down. Happy bacterium.

Unfortumately there is a large subgroup of the population who's immune system "sees" pullulanase as something to attack. These people have a special marker on their white blood cells called HLA B27. They attack pullulanase as if it were an invading nasty. It is unfortunate that the structure of pullulanase and the structure of the collagen which forms our joints is similar. An attack on pullulanase results in collateral damage to the collagen of our ligaments and joints, most particularly those of our spine.

You don't need to carry 20 tonne "lego bricks" around on your head to get cervical spinal arthritis. You just have to eat grains and be unlucky with your HLA type. The Egyptians were amongst the first people on Earth to eat spelt, a precursor of wheat, and they suffered. So here's the £20,000 question; is the USDA Food Pyramid currently causing more arthritis than did the building of the Egyptian Pyramids?

How's your backache and would you like another slice of bread?



Anonymous said...

Peter, if you don't mind a question,
is spinal stenosis also caused by grain consumption?

Thanks very much.

Peter said...

Probably, but (other) disorders of insulin metabolism might also be involved... I think that's as far as you can guess. But, as for AS where chest movement limitation has produced chronic hypoxia, I'm not sure cutting the grains/starches/fibre would necessarily reverse the established pathology.


Anonymous said...

Thank you very much, Peter. I appreciate your taking the time to help. Had to look up what hypoxia is. Yes, more would be required, indeed.

I am relieved to have found what to eat and what to avoid for my own benefit.

It seems as though almost all of the ailments that befall folks are due to the grains, the sweets, the PUFAs and high fruit intake. How to help those we love, who won't give up such things....

Thank you for your kind help, and for your labors of love in offering this blog. It means a great deal. :)

Peter said...

Don't forget that being there for our loved ones is more important than alienating them with diet advice......

Anonymous said...

Peter, thanks. :)

I agree, I just get a little sad about their food choices sometimes.

I am trying to fill our time together with much love, and be a good example, and take extra special care of them.

Somehow those war years got them to eat margarine. I've even taken them homemade butter, and they declined. I wonder if many of that generation think they are still being patriotic and helping something greater than themselves by eating margarine.

Thank you for all your kindness and work in helping many of us make better choices.

I appreciate it. :)

twiceearth said...

So funny! Only second to the shaman story. Story mode is the best.
It is a specific fungus Aureobasidium_pullulans according to wiki that produces the starch pullulan. The starch we eat is different to that starch.