Monthly Archives: February 2018

Lectin Lesson 4: What Elephants Having Heart Attacks Teaches Us About Cancer

References: Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox, CirculationScience Direct,Front Oncol., Glycobiology,

Ok, caught your attention? Elephants having heart attacks? Yes, it’s true. Now, when elephants live in their natural habitat that has sufficient tree and brush forage, they never get a heart attack. In the last couple of hundred years they have lost habitat and been driven to eating grasses. Elephants don’t eat grass when they have natural leaf habitat – they eat leaves. When they eat grass they develop coronary disease, just like us. Why does that happen?
We share an odd and uncommon sugar with elephants. It is called Neu5ac. I’ll call it N-A. It’s a member of the sialic acid family of sugars. We share it with shellfish, chickens and elephants. When we diverged from chimps 8 million years ago, we started making Neu5ac (N-A). Chimps make Neu5gc (N-G). As do every other mammal including the ones we eat like cows, goats, sheep, pigs. This sugar, N-A) is like a signal in our gut cells and our arteries. And grain based lectins bind avidly to it. WGA, the lectin in the wheat germ, binds avidly to it. Avidly. But grain lectins don’t bind to N-G.
Here’s where the link happens. When we eat red meat containing Neu5gc – N-G, your immune system recognizes it as foreign and makes antibodies to it. Those antibodies then turn around and attack your own Neu5ac (N-A) receptors. You get antibodies on your blood vessel walls. You call in white cells. Coronary artery disease is off and running. When elephants eat grasses, they get the same cross reactivity. Something about having grass (wheat) based lectins that attach to Neu5ac and eating the Neu5gc form of the sugars makes for that autoimmune attack.
Now, swing over to cancer. Human cancers have a lot of the Neu5gc protein in them. They put it on their surface as a means of hiding from our immune system. Wait a minute! We don’t make it. Human cells cannot make Neu5gc. Right, we don’t. Then how does the cancer get it? From our eating it in red meat. That may be the link between our eating excessive red meat, and having more cancer. The more red meat you eat, the more N-G you get to supply cancer cells with camouflage. Did you notice that chicken and shell fish don’t have N-G. They have N-A, just like humans and elephants. When you eat chicken and shell fish, you have less risk of heart disease and cancer.

The mechanism that is driving both of these phenomenon is the presence of these sialic acid sugars called Neu5ac versus Neu5gc. Their subtle name difference is the whole universe of immune recognition. That simple little alteration is all it takes for your immune system to go the wrong direction and start a process that leads to the slippery slope of coronary artery disease, or cancer.

WWW. What will work for me. This is a smoking gun. It tells us the clear mechanism by which this elegant, delicate signaling system shifts our immune reaction against either ourselves or against our own immune vessels. Or cancer. It’s simple. We get B12 from red meat. We have to have it. A tiny bit. I mean tiny bit. Seems like we need to start thinking about how we can change the balance of calories. If ketogenic eating is important for our brains, then it has to be with healthy fats, not meat. And it all comes down to those magnificent gentle animals, elephants.

Pop Quiz


  1. Elephants were designed to eat grasses? T or F                                               Answer: False Leaves
  2. When elephants eat grasses they develop what illness in common with humans?           Answer: Coronary artery disease
  3. The key link in the immune response is a lectin binding sugar called?                             Answer: Neu5ac – a member of the sialic acid family of sugars
  4. The principal damaging lectin in wheat, WGA binds to which of the two sialic acids – Neu5gc or Neu5ac?                                                                                                                                Answer: N-A not N-G
  5. Human cancer cells get their camouflage from?                                        Answer:     Red meat Neu5ga.



Lectin Lesson #3: How Lectins Make you Fat

Reference: Gundry’s The Plant ParadoxAm Jr Physiology,

Did you know that humans lost height and brain case size in the 1000 year transition from hunter gatherer to wheat grower. Gundry quotes this in his book as what has been discovered at archeological sites from those time periods. Civilization had its costs? All so that we could have kings and cities and armies and compete with your neighbors more effectively. Hmm. And we started domesticating pigs and cows, sheep and goats….so we didn’t have to go hunting. Here is Grundry’s conjecture. Wheat and lentils are amazing grains. When you eat them, you gain weight faster and more efficiently to that you can make it through winter more efficiently. Civilization liked wheat, because by putting calories on into storage, those who ate it lasted longer.
Now, extend that to today and see if it’s any different. What do we feed cows before we slaughter them for market – corn and beans? Wild pigs are lean animals. Domesticated pigs have lots of fat (we call if bacon) when fed corn and beans. Those foods make animals fat too. So Gundry’s hypothesis is that humans didn’t choose wheat and lentils to grow because they could be stored, but because you put weight on the most effectively with them. That’s his Plant Paradox. The very plants (wheat and beans) that allowed our ancestors to develop civilization and store calories for the winter were the same plants that hastened our demise from metabolic diseases. Now, that was hidden for the last 9,000 years because we died of measles and tuberculosis and cholera by age 30 anyways, and didn’t see the degenerative effect of inflammation caused by these grains. Grains became the means to civilization not because they could be stored, but because they were the most efficient means to put on weight and make it through winter. They promote more calories into fat deposit than any other food. And then, isn’t it curious that milk from black cows, so called A-1 milk, has lectin qualities to it too in its BMC-7 fragment, and promotes weight gain.
Ok, I get the historical conjecture but is there a coherent biological explanation for how this works? Yes, indeed. It goes as follows. Two key processes are going on.

First, the disruptive effect of the lectin in wheat called WGA. Wheat germ agglutinin. It looks a lot like insulin. Acts like insulin. That’s what lectins are, proteins that mimic mammalian proteins and cause damage by disruption. WGA mimics insulin, badly. Insulin attaches to a cell for a tiny amount of time, then lets go. WGA doesn’t let go. On a fat cell, the message is to take up glucose, forever and ever. That fat cell gets fatter. On a muscle cell, however, the message is to block insulin effect so muscle are starved. Again, WGA doesn’t let go so the real hormone that should be on the receptor can’t dock on its receptor and tell the muscle cell to take up glucose and run with it. Same effect on nerve cells: WGA clamps on and doesn’t let go. Nerve cells are starving. But they send out the message to the organism: “Eat more.”
Even more disturbing isrecent evidence has emerged that lectins can climb up the vagus nerve from the gut to the brain, damaging the substantia nigra, the seat of Parkinson’s disease. Indeed, cut the vagus nerve and the risk of PD drops 40%.
The final argument to support Gundry’s hypothesis might be called the Common Soil Hypothesis – that the mechanisms of metabolism and inflammation are curiously linked. You got fat because your body is at war with itself. And it goes as follows. The lectins set off your “Tiny Little Radars”, your Toll Like Proteins, that reside in your blood vessels and fat cells. They set off cytokines (your body’s fire alarms) calling for white cells to respond to clean up the invading bacteria. Except there are no bacteria. It’s just lectins. But the white cells show up. And your body shifts into war mode. Energy goes to the troops, the white cells. The stay-at-home folks, (Gundry calls them civilians but you think of them as muscle and brain cells) go on war rations and get less. Hence, you become insulin and leptin resistant not because you are overweight, but because your body is inflamed from all the fake lectin signals setting off fire alarms about invading bacteria. Your body is at war, thinking you have been invaded by bacteria, and you are all pumped up and ready to defend. Except that there is nothing to defect. The home folks starve. Fat cells get bigger.

Get it? Stop the war, send the troops home. Weight loss follows automatically. Stop eating lectins. That includes A-1 milk and cheese, nightshade plants, wheat and beans and most of all, genetically modified foods with their genetically inserted extra lectins.

www.What will work for me. This is a paradigm shift type of thinking, but it makes perfect sense. I get it. I just have to figure out how to implement it. And wheat is lurking behind every food in America. And every meat product was raised on lectin foods: corn and soybeans so the lectins in those foods are still there for me to absorb. I have to live with this a while. But I can shift a little. Less beans, less wheat. One step at a time.

Pop Quiz

  1. You are leptin resistant and fat because you eat like a pig? T or F                      Answer: That’s backwards, unless you take eating like a pig to mean you are eating corn and beans, lectin foods. The proper answer is that leptin resistance and fatness comes from the natural shifts your body makes to counter the fake messages caused by eating lectin containing foods. You eat secondarily because your brain cells and muscles are starving, ironically.
  2. Lectins set off inflammation because they activate TLRs? What are TLRs?
    Answer: Toll Like Receptors or “Tiny Little Radars” in Gundry’s clever nomenclature – your natural bar code readers watching what’s in your blood to sort our friend from foe.
  3. You can make great bacon with wild boar? T or F                                                  Answer: Patently false. To make bacon on pigs, you have to feed them corn and beans.
  4. To make bacon on you, the best foods to do that with are?                             Answer: Same as with pigs. Corn, wheat and beans
  5. Ipso facto, to lose weight you need to ?                                                                Answer: create the environment whereby you “stop the war”, turn off inflammation, rid yourself of lectins, eat what nature intended you to eat.



Lectin Lesson 2: How Lectins Cause Damage with Inflammation

References: American Heart Sci Meetings,Jr, ImmunologyResearchgateWikipediaAthersclerosis,

Just what is going on with lectins? What’s the big deal? Do they really cause trouble?

To understand those questions, you have to understand the complement system in your body. This is not about saying a nice thing to you about your hair, or your necklace, this is about your basic lizard brain immune system, your innate immune system. Your innate immune system is the first to respond to threats with non-specific responses. If you think of a series of dominoes, each of which knocks over two more, the innate immune system is the means by which your body kicks back immediately against external threats and makes immediate reactions that happens quickly in response to “invasion”. A cascade of chemicals create tags to place on the invader to tell a white cell to eat that particular invader, (Opsonization is the fancy term) or punches a hole in the wall of the invader with donut shaped proteins so the invader leaks its guts out. You can imagine, this has to be carefully controlled as if it balloons out of control, you get the shaft and your own cells get damaged. The adaptive system, layer two of your immune response, takes longer to gear up and make specific antibodies shaped precisely to attack the invader, or specific white cells armed with bar code readers to find and destroy the invader. Doing all that takes time. In the short term, the complement system is it.
There are several pathways into the complement system. The classical pathway, the alternative pathway and the LECTIN PATHWAY. Did you get that? The lectin pathway is one of the ways you set off your innate immune system. To understand this pathway you have to be able to read the following sentences without pausing: This pathway is initiated by the binding of mannose-binding lectin (MBL), collectin 11 (CL-K1), and ficolins (Ficolin-1, Ficolin-2, and Ficolin-3) to microbial surface oligosaccharides and acetylated residues, respectively. Upon binding to target molecules, MBL, CL-K1, and ficolins form complexes with MBL-associated serine proteases 1 and 2 (MASP-1 and MASP-2), which cleave C4 and C2 forming the C3 convertase (C4b2a). If you drill down into that, it simplifies to the sugar mannose that is part of many plant lectins, and your complement system watching for that sugar signature to fire off a response. Ficolins are protein lectins that come in patterns of five at a time, and also set of the lectin pathway.
Here is the rub. There is now evidence that a low lectin diet will decrease endothelial dysfunction (code word for the first step in coronary artery disease).

What’s the final implied conclusion? This is a new way to look at heart disease. Lectins play a roll is setting off inflammation. That’s a given. Lectins in the human diet have increased dramatically in the last 200 years as our foods from all over the world have become part of a new diet that never had those foods before. And in the 21st century, we have added all sorts of chemicals to our environment that allow our gut to “leak”: NSAIDs like ibuprofen and naproxen, steroids, antibiotics, PPIs. And we have genetically modified many of our foods to create grains resistant to insects by intentionally inserting more lectins into the genome of plants that we then eat. We have tilted the playing field. The slope is in the wrong direction to maintain health.
WWW. What will work for me. I am eager to learn this stuff. I was at a small plate restaurant this weekend and intentionally chose a low lectin dinner: grilled Brussel’s sprouts and calamari. I slept better last night. Hmmm. Don’t know if that’s linked. One meal does not a heart attack prevent, but Gundry has shown that a low lectin diet will reduce damaged blood vessels “endothelial dysfunction” in just a few months. I’ve been off ibuprofen now for two weeks. Never again.

Pop Quiz


  1. The Complement System is the method of English Manners and Polite Behavior. T or F Answer: well, yes, true, but not here. In your immune system, it’s your kick boxer – the first line of defense against invasion. Not polite
  2. Lectins set off the complement system. T or F                               Answer: True. There are 3 pathways to set it off and one of them specifically is started with lectins.
  3. Many lectins have a simple sugar on them that is an ID of trouble. What is it?          Answer:   Mannose
  4. You can reduce endothelial dysfunction with a low lectin diet? (What’s that?  It’s part of what we simplify to call high blood pressure, but is a bigger picture of damaged blood vessel lining.)                                        Answer:  Today’s takeaway
  5. We have had an increase in lectins in our diet in the last 100 years?                            Answer: Not only an increase by new foods, but intentionally added to many foods by genetic engineering, feeding lectins to our animals, and then the coup de grace of adding leaky gut from modern chemicals.