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Questions About Lectins

Lectins and Natural Killer Cells

Inhibition of natural killer and interleukin 2-activated natural killer cell cytotoxicity by monosaccharides and lectins.

Mikrobiyol Bul 1987 Oct;21(4):245-50

Imir T, Bankhurst AD.

Natural Killer (called NK) cells are specialized cells of the immune sytem which act predominantly to protect us against viruses, parasites and malignancies. Some dietary lectins have an NK Cell lowering activity while others have no activity on NK cell activity, and there are even a few lectins (not usually found in the diet) which have an ability to increase NK cell activity. The effect of lectins on NK cells can be both directly or indirectly modulated. Many lectins can influence NK cell activity directly by binding to the carbohydrate chains contained on these immune cells.

Critics of the lectin hypothesis in ER4YT have suggested that lectins are unimportant and either get destroyed by digestive secretions or in some other way are not absorbed. Had these critics taken a moment to review the scientific literature on lectins, they would soon realize that no controversy exists. Lectins are absorbed and do reach your systemic circulation. But lectins do not even have to reach your NK cells to impact them negatively. High lectin diets generate polyamines in your digestive tract (protein breakdown products) and polyamines themselves reduce NK cell activity. High lectin diets also disrupt your intestinal flora (the balance of good and bad bacteria in your digestive tract) and an imbalanced flora also results in decreased NK cell activity. Many of the foods people eat on a daily basis contain lectins (see ER4YT) and many of the most commonly consumed lectins can dramatically decrease NK cell function.

The Ask Dr. D'Adamo internet advice column ran from 1996 to 2009, at which time Dr. D'Adamo's teaching and programming responsibilities no longer allowed him to devote time and resources to directly answering visitor questions. However we've recently reorganized this treasure-trove of material and made it again available to his readership. He occasionally posts new entries. These are marked with a NEW tag.

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