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DIETARY LECTINS: BLOOD TYPES & FOOD ALLERGIES

Laura Power, Ph.D.
Biotype Research Corporation 6521 Arlington Blvd., Suite 104 Falls Church, Virginia 22042 703-538-4161

Published in: Townsend Letter for Doctors June 1991

Type 2 IgG immune responses. . and hemagglutination.2 Abstract Dietary lectins in excess can cause 3 major physiological effects: gastrointestinal damage. Herein may lie a method for predicting food sensitivities by ABO blood type. 65 are blood-type specific. Findings include 119 lectins: 54 are panhemagglutinins.

(7) By 1945 Boyd found that some lectins were blood-type specific. (7) And some foods are known to have 2 or more lectins. (1) They function as both allergens and hemagglutinins. they can cause 3 primary physiological reactions: Lectins can cause severe intestinal damage. Today lectins are commonly used in laboratories to type blood. He reported that lima beans will only agglutinate blood type A. The remainder are blood-type specific. (2) History Lectins have been known for a century. disrupting digestion and causing nutrient deficiencies. lectins alter host resistance to infection. fish and shellfish. more so in a whole-grain diet. causing hemagglutination and anemia. particularly type A1. nuts. and are present in small amounts in 30% of American foods. (3) They can provoke IgG and IgM antibodies causing Gell-Coombs Type 2 food allergies and other immune responses. (5) Of the 119 known dietary lectins. and can even lead to death in experimental animals. In general. (2) Lectins have potent in vivo effects. (2) They are found in plants and animals. about half are panhemagglutinins.4) And they can bind to erythrocytes. (8) . and in non-toxic plants (beans and lentils) in 1907.particularly in edible cereals. Many species-specific lectins have also been identified. seeds. They were discovered in castor beans by Stillmark in 1888 (6). cause failure to thrive. (3. When consumed in excess by sensitive individuals. beans. clumping all blood types. simultaneously with immune factors. (6) Since that time lectins have been found in both plants and animals -.3 Introduction Dietary lectins are protein antigens which bind to surface glycoproteins (or glycolipids) on erythrocytes or lymphocytes.

(3) Human Reactions In humans lectins have been reported to cause damage. (3) Furthermore. (12) . or eaten by individuals deficient in stomach acid. lectin absorption can be higher if eaten raw. However. and do not completely degrade with cooking. and spleen. including mass food poisoning from raw or under-cooked kidney beans (10. liver. sufficient to cause an immune response. Some are also relatively resistant to stomach acid and proteolytic enzymes. and high titres of circulating lectin-specific antibodies. which is considered a significant amount. pancreas.4 Absorption Many lectins are relatively resistant to both heating and digestion. or secretory IgA antibodies which bind lectins in the gut. mice. This included the feeding of high lectin diets. spleen and thymus.11). with direct relationship to the severity of the toxic symptoms. while some lectins are degraded and others pass through the gut. proteolytic enzymes. blood assays for IgG and IgE antibodies. (3) In Vivo Testing Pusztai et al report that in vivo testing of lectins has been performed on animals: rats. (9) Thus. about 1% to 5% absorb into the blood stream in animals. Results showed severe intestinal lesions. lectins had relatively minor effects on the liver. The main target tissues were the thymus and small intestine. pancreas. Many have a high thermal stability (70˚ C > 30 min). pigs and steers. and dissection and examination of the intestines. direct studies on 125I-lectin uptake from the gut. and hemolytic anemia and jaundice from Mexican fava beans (in Glucose-6-Phosphate dehydrogenase deficient individuals).

Freed has found that the gliadin toxin is an isolectin of Wheat Germ Agglutinin. This severely damages the microvilli of the enterocytes. causing lesions and inflammation. fluid and mucus. disrupting glucose metabolism. and retardation of long-term growth. (11) Finally. Wheat Germ Agglutinin. resulting in a negative nitrogen balance. Lectins can increase intestinal weight and cell number 60-80%. (10) In fact. Intestinal Damage Digestive Distress Lectins can cause acute gastrointestinal symptoms. And it explains why animals on high lectin diets show increased fecal and urinary nitrogen loss. a protein enzyme. and other lectins can even bind to insulin receptors on cells. creating gas. They bind to the luminal surface of absorptive enterocytes in the small intestine. (3) Carbohydrate Malabsorption Lectins can also disrupt carbohydrate absorption and metabolism. This interferes with protein breakdown and with nitrogen absorption in the gut. blocking the production of enterokinase. disrupting digestion and absorption.5 1. Lectins can reduce intestinal glucose uptake by 50%. (10) Concanavalin A in Jack beans. In the gut lectins bind to enterocytes. it is speculated that lectins cause inflammatory bowel (2) and celiac disease in humans. (3) Lectins can even promote the growth of harmful bacteria in the gut. (13) Protein Malabsorption Lectins can disrupt protein absorption. including nausea and vomiting. because of the high lectin content in grains. (10) .

(9) Lima beans and other lectins bind to adenine and some cytokinins.(11) Or it can circulate through the blood to the kidneys. vomiting. (3) Lectins can cause: fatigue. and hemolytic anemia. (12) Type 1 + 3 Allergies Lectins can also cause Type 1 allergies involving IgE antibodies. Type 2 Allergies Lectins primarily evoke IgG and IgM antibodies.(1) Tomato lectin agglutinates not only erythrocytes. This can precipitate in the blood vessels.6 2. nausea.(10) Lectins can also combine with complement and neutrophils to form Type 3 immune complexes. causing vascular lesions.(12) Other Immune Reactions Lectins such as Concanavalin A in jack beans can bind to T-cells and other lymphocytes triggering cell mitosis. achiness. and a direct relationship between the severity of toxic symptoms and the antibody titre. Pusztai's results showed high titres of circulating lectin-specific IgG antibodies (but no reaction to other foods). Immune Responses Lectins can evoke a variety of immune responses. diarrhea.(2) . but human lymphocytes and granulocytes.(1) Lectins can alter host resistance to infection and to tumor challenge by exhausting the immune system. causing Type 2 allergies. headache. where it lodges in the glomerular tufts causing inflammation or nephritis. irritability. but they primarily cause Type 2 allergies. resulting in thrombosis and hemorrhage. (3) And in large quantities they can even induce histamine release from blood basophils and from mast cells without IgE intervention. (3) To review the 4 allergy types see Table 1 and Figure 1.

Delayed responses occur within 12-72 hours. both release inflammatory cytokines. irritability. or other lesions. Immediate responses occur within 1-60 minutes. Involved in 50% of food allergies. headache. agglutinating the cell. Accounts for 10-20% of food allergies. Type 2: Lectin (or Cytotoxic) Caused when IgG or IgM antibodies bind to lectins on red or white blood cells. Delayed responses occur in 12-72 hours.12) Type 1: Reagin (IgE) Caused when allergens react with IgE antibodies on mast cells in mucous membranes to release histamine. confusion. In severe cases hemolytic anemia or immune exhaustion. Immediate Symptoms: Hay fever. Late-phase responses occur within 12-72 hours. . rhinitis. gallbladder disease. Late-phase Symptoms: Migraines. colitis. and neurological disorders. diarrhea. Symptoms: Fatigue. Type 3: Immune Complex (IgG) Caused when IgG antibodies form large antigen-antibody complexes. vomiting. bladder inflammation. headache. heart and vascular disease. neurological disorders. hives. Complement or K-Cells can attach. Involved in 80% of food allergies. arthritis. asthma. regional ileitis. Involved in 40-50% of food allergies.5. insomnia. learning disorders. hyperactivity.7 Table 1 The 4 Gell-Coombs Allergy Types (4. depression. muscle pains. neurological disorders and schizophrenia. can take 3-4 weeks to diminish. Complement and neutrophils can attach. liver and kidney disease. Symptoms: Fatigue. They can deposit in tissues. Internal Contact Symptoms: Bowel lesions. achiness. arthritis. Type 4: T-Lymphocyte Caused when macrophages interact with T-lymphocytes in tissue cells. ulcers. External Contact Symptoms: Poison ivy. arthritis. heart and vascular disease. eczema. liver & kidney disease. Delayed responses occur within 24 hours. nausea. and in children flushed red cheeks and hyperlinetic behavior. fear.

Or K-Cells. (4. or neutrophils can attach and agglutinate the cell.5) . Complement protein can attach via the alternate complement pathway.8 2 Food Lectins IgG Antibody RBC K-Cell Complement Figure 1: Gell-Coombs Type 2 Food Allergy Reaction: IgG antibodies bind to food lectins on a red blood cell. lysing the cell. monocytes. It is then destroyed in the liver. Note: K-Cells do not react with blood type A.

O. AB. There are some two-dozen blood groups (ABO. B = D-galactose. parasites.(5) It is then destroyed in the liver. toxins. The remainder are blood-type specific.9 3. (Figure 1. They are part of the immune system. This is a classic Type 2 immune response. virus. monocytes. M or N. etc. which bind to any erythrocyte.(12) . (8) Blood Type Chemistry (8) A = N-acetyl-D-galactosamine. and will bind to blood types A. agglutinating the blood cell. Of the 119 dietary lectins listed here. comprising over 400 blood types. bacteria.). O = L-fucose. and lectins. N = galactose. B. about half are panhemagglutinins. or neutrophils) may attach. Later phagocytes (killer cells. Rh. MN. or subtypes A1 or A2. such as: antibodies. glycoprotein (or glycolipid) molecules on the surface of red blood cells. Hemagglutination Blood Types Blood types are themselves antigens. Agglutination Lectins can agglutinate erythrocytes (RBC) and sometimes lymphocytes. M = NANA or sialic acid. or complement via the alternate pathway may bind and lyse the cell.) In large numbers this can cause hemolytic anemia and jaundice. and as such are known to react with foreign substances.

2. Foods are then individually blended until homogenized. and grouped according to blood type reactivity. (8.14) All are edible food lectins or medicinal herbs. They are then tested against outdated human blood by mixing 1 or 2 drops of each and centrifuging for 30 minutes. Wheat germ is included under blood type M. based on the following criteria. 4. foods are included only if the seeds are normally eaten (ie bananas. and mixed with saline or NaOH to adjust pH. Common foods are purchased from several sources. All react with non-enzyme treated human blood. because blood type M is sialic acid. Where only the seeds react. grapes). similar to blood typing. . 3. this is because different food samples may contain varying amounts of lectins. and sialic acid is the RBC binding site for Wheat Germ Agglutinin. (2.10 Identifying Lectins In Vitro Blood-type specificity of lectins is determined by simple in vitro testing. filtered.6) Criteria for Lectin Selection Tables 2 + 3 are lists of dietary lectins from the scientific literature. 1.

oil for soap) field beans 2 French mushrooms (15) (7) (20) (21) (7) (7) (7) BLOOD TYPE O asparagus pea Australian catfish blackberries boa constrictor cocoa eels (47%) (16) (7) (2) (7) (7) (7) (2) (7) (2) escargot (Roman snail) (7) field beans French mushroom (15) (7) (hygrophorus hypothejus) garfish halibut hog peanut lima beans "Product 19" snakes (7) (7) (16) (7) (2) (7) Evonymus Europaeus (buter dye. soap oil) (7) French mushroom (amanita muscaria) gorse halfmoon fish (27) (7) (7) (7) (7) (7) (7) (7) (hygrophorus hypothejus) (marasmius oreades) halfmoon fish opayeye fish pomegranate salmon (7) (7) (20) (7) (1) (7) (7) (2) halibut Japanese eel lotus opaleye fish sunflower seed BLOOD TYPE M Clown's Mustard (rheumatism herb) snow white mushrooms (2) soybeans soybean sprouts string beans tora beans "Total" vetch (common) (1) (2) (2) (17) (2) (18) salmon caviar (roe) sesame seeds snakes soybeans trout caviar (roe) (7) tuna (7) Western painted turtle (7) white croaker fish winged bean BLOOD TYPE A1 giant butter clam horse gram lima beans (A1 > A2) (7) (7) (22) (7) (19) (7) horseshoe crab wheat germ (23) (14) Western painted turtle (7) B LOOD TYPE A2 French mushroom (aminta muscaria) (7) BLOOD TYPE AB hyacinth bean All "A" & "B" foods BLOOD TYPE N Camel's Foot (Chinese pot herb) !(7) (7) .11 Table 2 Blood-Type Specific Lectins BLOOD TYPE A blackberries brown trout "Cornflakes" (Ref) BLOOD TYPE B bitter pear melon black-eyed peas castor beans cocoa Coronilla (heart disease herb) Evonymus Europaeus (7) (butter dye.

LECTIN “All Bran” cereal asparagus banana barley germ broad beans caraway seeds celery cherries chicory (endive) coconut coconut crab coffee cucumber currants fava beans French mushroom (armarillaria mellea) Reference (2) (24) (15) (25) (1) (15) (24) (2) (7) (7) (7) (15) (26) (15) (15) (7) (2) (15) (7) (1) (28) (29.30) (31) (1) (1) (7) LECTIN Mexican mushroom (7) (agaricus campestris) Reference grapes hazel nuts hermit crab (75%) jack beans locust beans (black) kidney beans kintoki beans lentils lentil sprouts lobster navy beans nutmeg oyster parsley peas peanuts peppermint pinto beans potato processor beans pumpkin seeds radish “Raisin Bran” cereal rice germ rutabaga rye germ “Shredded Wheat” “Special K” cereal strawberries sweet peppers Swiss chard tomato triticale walnut wax bean wheat germ "Wheaties" cereal (29) (15) (7) (7) (1) (1) (15) (18) (32) (33) (34) (7) (2) (25) (24) (25) (2) (2) (15) (15) (7) (9) (35) (15) (18) (25) (2) .12 Table 3 Panhemagglutinin Lectins The following lectins agglutinate all blood types.

and lymphocyte mitogenesis. they can agglutinate erythrocytes leading to anemia. or by persons deficient in stomach acid. contributing to Celiac Disease (10). These are present in 30% of American foods. lectins are a danger when consumed in their raw state. sometimes with ABO specificity. (2) .11). M or N. (2) Are Lectins Harmful? Lectin toxicity depends on degradation and absorption. allowing about 1%-5% to absorb into the blood. disrupting digestion.4). sometimes IgE (3). digestion and food processing (9). (13) They can provoke numerous immune responses. AB. causing protein loss and growth retardation (3). blocking glucose uptake and insulin receptors (10. and 65 lectins specific for blood types A. or Secretory-IgA. (4. Research indicates that. lectins can cause immune system exhaustion and failure to thrive. O. proteolytic enzymes. 54 panhemagglutinins. when consumed in excess by sensitive individuals. (3) Further.13 Discussion A review of the literature indicates that there are presently 119 known lectins in edible foods. including IgG and IgM (3. (1) Finally.12) In general. and subtypes A1 or A2. Lectins can cause severe intestinal damage. B. Many lectins are resistant to heating. lectins can cause 3 detrimental physiological effects. and promoting the growth of harmful bacteria.

Thus the answer is. (4. Blood-type specific lectins should be avoided by appropriate individuals. ischaemic heart disease. Goals: To Prevent Lectin Toxicity The following may be suggested to prevent lectin toxicity. HOWEVER. hemagglutination is bloodtype specific. while still consuming a healthy high-fiber or whole-grain diet. in other persons.14 The irony of this is that high-lectin diets are also high-fiber and wholegrain diets. and digestive enzymes and hydrochloric acid supplements where needed. this does not mean that persons with other blood types will have no immune response. High lectin foods should be thoroughly cooked. but they will have no hemagglutination. the lectins and antibodies will both bind to the erythrocyte. . With blood-type specific lectins. However. if lectins absorb: YES. Digestion can be improved with the use of proper food combinations. But other persons might be susceptible to tissue damage from immune complexes. the lectins and antibodies may bind together in an immune complex. And panhemagglutinins should be tested for in allergy-prone individuals. including some anemia. Some other persons may have a Type 3 immune response. which contain more nutrients needed for better health. and diabetes. (10) Can Food Sensitivities Be Predicted by Blood Type? YES and NO. Gell-Coombs Type 2 lectin allergies and hemagglutination can be predicted by blood type in susceptible individuals.5) For example: In a sensitive type A1 person exposed to excess lima bean. but antibody response is not truly specific. This means that the type A1 person will suffer more humoral damage. High-fiber diets have been associated with low incidence of bowel cancer.

Gell & Coombs. Gold & Balding. NOTE: Physicians and researchers may obtain simple and inexpensive bloodtype testing kits from Carolina Biological Supply Co. 1989. p77-79. In: Ibid #1. In: Am J Clin Nutr. 4.. 3. Nachbar & Oppenheim. References 1. Molecular Biology. Biological Corp of America. p193. 9. Pusztai et al. 1969. 8. and Function of Plant Lectins. 1983. North Carolina 27215. p 271-272. Lippincott. 2. Immunology. New York. In addition. Issitt & Issitt. Applied Blood Group Serology. Lippincott. Philadelphia. West Chester.. p 763Roitt et al. Philadelphia. Local and Systemic Responses to Dietary Lectins. Amer Elsevier. Lectins in the United States Diet. 7. Goldstein & Etzler.15 Future Research Further research is needed to identify more dietary lectins. Chemical Taxonomy. 779. 6. 1981. A Survey of Hemagglutinins in Various Seeds. New York. Pub. 1975. research is needed to identify evolutionary patterns in diet.1975. p 63-70. In: J Immun. 33:2338-2345. 2700 York Road. Receptor-Specific Proteins: Plant and Animal Lectins.. In: Ibid #1. Pa. p120-389. Clinical Aspects of Immunology. Tomato Lectin. Burlington. p 1-29. in order to reduce the incidence of digestive distress and food allergies. Alan Liss. We are presently conducting three epidemiological studies which match blood types to food allergies. Kilpatric. . Allen & Brilliantine. 102:1295-1299.1980. 5..

1981.Ann Med Exptl. Anal Biochem 1981.The Lectins. Pusztai & Stewart.(ed Bog Hansen). In: Lectins.. Planta. 1956. 37:1677. Biochim Biophys Acta.. Isolation and some Properties of a Lectin from Curcurbita Phloem exudates. 23.. Springfield. CARB no. 14. 1978.. Hemolytic and Hemagglutinating Activities of 222 Plants... Federation Proc.. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1972. Life Science 1965. Fenn.. 536-38. p 411-422. New York. Tomita et al.. 1978. Gallagher. Characterization of a Lectin from Cow Peas... 1:311-318. Biology.. Dale. Basics of Food Allergy. 1968. 21. Sialic Acid as a Cell-Surface Binding Site for Wheat Germ Agglutinin. p 99-116. 1979.. 12. 113:253-255. 18. 1984. 142-97. 25. Ill. Renkonen. . p 529-552. 15. 15:410. Cohen. Enke.. Advances in Lectin Research. Banwell et al. p 10-229... Abstracts of papers ACS. Honolulu. Springer-Verlag. Wissler. Breneman. Academic Press. Chemical Congress.. Clinical Biochemistry. 1986. Elsevier/North Holland Biomedical Press. 11.1978.. New York. Ohtani & Misaki. Studies on Hemagglutinins Present in Seeds. 24. 13. 17.16 10. 16. Vox Sang. Kruppe. J. 50:68-80. Orlando. Chemical and Biological Characterization of Tora Bean Lectin. 48. Roberson & Strength. Sharon. Berlin. Harding.. Hossaini. 1948. 28:84. 1979. In: Protein Transmission Through Living Membranes. 22. DeGruyter. Peumans & Stinissen.... Gramineae Lectins. Dietary Lectins and the Anti-Nutritive Effects of Gut Allergy. Blutgruppenspezifische Pflanzliche Eiweisskorper (Phytagglutinine).. 20. Purification of a Galactose-Binding Phytoagglutinin. Isolectins of Phaseolus Vulgaris.26:66. Stuttgart. 26. Freed. Rise. 4:2009-2016.Experentia. 1985. Liener. Appukuttan & Basir. Biochemistry. Thomas. 19.In: Ibid #1. ACS/CSJ. Goldstein. Sabnis & Hart..

Constable. 1979. p 3-27. Biophys. Biophys. 243:111.. 1972. Proc Nutr Soc. B. In: Chromatographie et Methodes de Separation Immediate (Assoc Greek Chemists. Acta..2:151. New York. Matsumoto & Osawa. The Isolation and Characterization of a Lethal Protein from Kintoki Beans. Toxicity to Rats of Purified Phytohemagglutinins from 4 Indian Legumes. London. 1972. Pusztai et al. Arch. 35. Webber et al. p 71-85. Potato Lectin. Biochem. Biochem. The Nutritional Toxicity of Phaseolus Vulgaris Lectins.23:525.10:89. 29. Hariharan & Rao.. Proc Indian Acad Sci. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol. Usher. 28.. 32.38:115. 1977.17 27.In: Methods of Enzymology (Ed: Hirs & Timasheff). Allen. Athens) 1966. 1971.In: Ibid #1. 36. 1974.87B:63-66. Academic Press. 31. Bourrillon & Font. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. 34. . 1970. Rigas et al. 1978. Sect. Mochizuki et al.. 33. 30. Manage et al. Measurement of Molecular Weights. In: Toxicon.. 140:484.

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