Sunday, July 25, 2010

Wheat Germ Agglutinin; how little is enough?

Chignola's group have been at WGA again. Their basic interest is (was?) in using WGA as a drug carrier aimed at certain cell surface sugar groupings, hoping to target certain cancers, as far as I can see.

Their first paper in 2005 demonstrated direct intestinal cell toxicity at micro molar concentrations. However Glenn updated me on their more recent 2009 paper here:

"At nanomolar concentrations WGA stimulates the synthesis of pro-inflammatory cytokines and thus the biological activity of WGA should be reconsidered by taking into account the effects of WGA on the immune system at the gastrointestinal interface. These results shed new light onto the molecular mechanisms underlying the onset of gastrointestinal disorders observed in vivo upon dietary intake of wheat-based foods"

Notice there is no mention of coeliac disease, you do not need to be genetically predisposed by HLA type to have WGA toxicity. This looks to be yet more direct molecular toxicity.

Now we are talking nanomolar concentrations.

It's a bit difficult to get your head round a nanomole of WGA. One mole is the molecular weight expressed in grams. For WGA this is a BIG number of grams. A nanomole is not very much. So a nanomole is not very much of quite a lot of grams! Without struggling with the math I'd just suggest putting the bread in the bin and seeing if I could get out of my wheelchair as my gut integrity improved! An angry immune cell, looking at a soup of gut peptides, is not going to care what collateral damage it does.


BTW I heard that Sheffield vs Nottingham medics is generic and not limited to neurology... I can't remember who mentioned it, I'm pretty certain it was off blog at a supper party, from a physicist who had worked for Nottingham Queens Medical in some capacity.


blogblog said...

Unfortunately traces of gluten are present in all manner of processed foods from bacon to many chocolate bars. In fact the stuff is incredibly hard to avoid.

Peter said...

But not quite impossible....


Anonymous said...

Anyone know of the lectin content of grain fed animal meat/fat/dairy/eggs? It would be interesting.

I am now at the six month mark of grain, legume and (partial) nightshade avoidance. Never had any intestinal issues. Maybe some gas. But coeliac skin, scalp dermatitis/psoriasis has eventually led me to the conclusion.

No results so far, at 6 months. Recently had to go to the emergency room with pain that seemed to be the kidneys, but turned out to be the uriters - ie bladder infection(proteus-type?). Kidneys perfectly fine. The infection had been giving minor symptoms(pains) for a year or more and had certainly not been completely destroyed by the antibiotics at the er. Only suppressed.

But I hadn't considered that the butter, cream, egg yolks and animal fats here in the US may be laden with lectins in far greater amounts. Luckily I am able to buy imported grass-fed beef from New Zealand at the local store. This is now my sole source of protein. There's also commercial grass fed milk(no cream or butter, unfortunately) if I feel too deprived. Cordain says saponis are really crappy for gut integrity too so...only sweet potatoes.

The other aspect of residual lectins is that pressure cooking destroys them in legumes( I wouldn't put wheat in there, but certainly it should kill off anything in meats, nightshades etc...

Emma of Plantpoisons seems to have started gluten free at the same time as I. And she's going for the nine month mark. We'll see.

Unknown said...

A nanomole of WGA (36,000 daltons) is 36 micrograms. Of course, I cheat and use wolfram alpha:'s+number+*++36,000+daltons/1000000000

Peter said...

Hi Bob,

Thanks for that! Makes a bit of a mockery of any technical definition of "gluten free" meaning anything less than zero...

Hi Corpse8700,

Sorry I missed this one... It's a big unknown to me how well the lectins penetrate to meat from grain eating. But a urinary problem does suggest proteus. I see no reason why an antibody made to proteus urease might not hit skin collagen rather than joint collage. No two antibodies are the same, probably no 2 HLA receptors are the same. I guess collagens might have subtle conformational differences between individuals.

For urinary proteus Ebringer does have a protocol which is high fluid intake with cranberry juice supplementation (the sugar in cranberries does block the adhesion factor in proteus as well as E coli, lectins get everywhere). Not sure if he would use LC here but I would...

I've been told that Dermatitis herpetiformis can take a year to clear on gluten elimination.

I've rather lost track of Emma recently, must visit her on line community and see what is going on there.


Anonymous said...

Thanks a ton for replying, Peter.

Ha-ha, that would be relying on a plant to save my life. :) But I will definitely try!

Yes, I am LC. Loosely imitating OD, but with more protein to support weight training. Sweet white potatoes(that's what they're called on the price tag)and minor vegs provide about 10g cho per meal to stay out of ketosis. Minimal fiber. Wish I could eliminate all together. Regardless, I'm committed to this type of dieting. And avoiding gluten grains and keeping plants to a minimum is a lifetime commitment.

Emma hasn't posted since Jan, but recently updated her blof and renamed it to Autoimmune Thyroid:

Probably waiting for results.

Thanks again.


Anne Wright said...


Have you tried completely eliminating nightshades?

I've seen studies that solanaceous glycoalkaloids, another class of nasty chemicals present in nightshades, also degrade intestinal permeability (for example, These are pretty tough, and even mostly survive frying temperatures. I doubt pressure cooking would affect them.

They're also hidden in all sorts of things. Some info on this is at

Anonymous said...

Anne, thanks for the link. How lovely that whenever I think I've rounded up a category of 'safe' plants, a reminder that nothing survives millions of years being defenseless emerges. Yes, I quit nightshades completely for at least 2 months early in the year(no effect). Currently eating small amounts roast bell peppers. In any case, after decades of wheat consumption(*along* with nightshades et al) any human gut probably resembles a mesh colander. In Feb it will be 12 months and I'll see happens after that.

Also, skimmed through Ebringer re uti's. He seems to reccommend a high fruit/vegetable diet. I'm wondering if he subscribes to Cordain's alkaline theories(that gluconeogensis is less damaging than maintaining blood ph, eskimos early aging etc...).


Anonymous said...

Oh, on the potatoes. Those are related to yams and sweetpotatoes - ie non-nightshades.


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter,

What is your eyes the difference between gluten and lectins. Are lectins found in gluten? Or in the case of celiac, does the lectin WGA cause the disease, but people just call it gluten?

VBR Hans

Anonymous said...

Would you think this text is accurate? VBR Hans

Gluten, gliadin, lectins and WGA

Many people mix up gluten, gliadin, lectins and WGA (wheat germ agglutinin). Well, gluten is derived from the Latin word for glue. And sticky it is. It is the composite of the plant storage proteins prolamin and a glutelin. In wheat the prolamin is gliadin and the glutelin is glutenin. In other cereal grains you’ll find other prolamins and glutelins. So the variety of gluten and its components as found in various cereal grains is diverse. In popular language gluten is chiefly used for the gliadin in wheat. From gliadin there are again several types. So the gluten story is not that simple. Lectins are reviewed above and not only found in cereal grains, but also in legumes, nightshades and dairy. WGA is one of the many lectins and is found in wheat. WGA is known due to its dishonorable reputation to be the main cause of celiac disease.

DM said...

Interesting if it were proven. But this is all speculative, in vitro research

DM said...

Nevermind, I take my former comment back IF WGA can resist all manners of digestion (which there seems to be some evidence for certain lectins resisting digestion anyways). I guess an in vitro study such as the one you linked would make more sense and maybe be appropriate to use in that regard if that is the case. If it is suitable for extrapolation in vivo though, I'm still not convinced that acute inflammatory events after eating are detrimental. Eating anything appears to be inflammatory. The real question would probably be to ask, does WGA cause chronic inflammation or long term consequences or health outcomes in humans?

cavenewt said...

DM—FWIW, I first read Wheat Belly by William Davis almost 10 years ago, and one high point I remember is that WGA is evil incarnate. It's not all about the gluten as so many people have been led to believe, thanks to marketing. I do remember there was a lot about zonulin and intestinal permeability, and damage to the crypts and villi. Another thing I remember is that if you're mostly grain-free but allow yourself a weekly or monthly cheat, you're not doing yourself any favors because it can take six months for this damage to heal.

So there's more to it than inflammation.