Lectins and osteoarthritis
by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR
Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.
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Lectins are protein or glycoprotein substances.
They are usually derived from plants.
Lectins are carbohydrate binding proteins present in most plants, especially seeds and tubers like cereals, potatoes, and beans. Many lectins are (a) toxic, inflammatory, or both; (b) resistant to cooking and digestive enzymes; and (c) present in many foods.
These lectins bind to sugar components in cell walls or membranes and by doing so, change the physiology of the membrane.
Lectins were first described in 1888 by Stillmark working with castor bean extracts. Many members of the lectin protein family cause red blood cells to clump. Research done by Ehrlich, considered to be the father of immunology, has shown that lectins are also antigenic (able to induce antigen-antibody reactions).
High levels of lectins (specialized proteins) may be found in grains, legumes, dairy, and plants in the nightshade family.
Lectins derived from the castor bean are highly toxic and can kill if ingested in even small amounts. Lectins from kidney beans have been implicated as cause in an outbreak of 'food poisoning' with no identifiable pathogen.
Lectins can interact with white blood cells, and may start a cascade of immune and autoimmune events leading to cell death.
Interestingly, glucosamine is specific for wheat lectin and it is this specificity that may protect the gut and cartilage from cell inflammation and destruction in wheat sensitive arthritis.
Common foods with known toxic lectins include all soy and wheat products including oils from these substances.
A possible lectin induced disease is arthritis. The normal human IgG molecule possesses carbohydrate side chains, which end with galactose. In arthritis galactose is missing, so that the subterminal sugar N-acetyl glucosamine is exposed. These deficient IgG molecules participate in the circulating immune complexes that cause inflammatory symptoms. In diet responsive arthritis one of the commonest trigger foods is wheat, and wheat lectin is specific for N-acetyl glucosamine, the sugar that is normally hidden but exposed in arthritis.
Could this be a possible explanation for the effectiveness of glucosamine/chindroitin in osteoarthritis?
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