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.