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Lectins, Fasting and Infection

Proposed biomolecular theory of fasting during fevers due to infection.

Altern Med Rev 2001 Oct;6(5):482-7

Yarnell E.

The folk admonition to starve a fever may have a scientific basis. Fevers due to infectious organisms that produce neuraminidase (sialidase) may contribute to the pathophysiology of autoimmune conditions. Neuraminidase unmasks host cellular lectins that interact with food lectins and can induce human leukocyte antigen type II (HLA II) expression. HLA II can then bind food lectins and serve as targets for antibody production. Some of these antibodies can then cross-react and attack healthy tissue, inducing disease. The example of insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is discussed, helping to explain why infectious organisms and dairy product ingestion appear to be linked to some cases of this disease. Genetic variants and other factors may contribute to disease pathogenesis, so this model does not explain all instances of autoimmune disease. Fasting as a way to avoid the process by not introducing food lectins is briefly reviewed. Neuraminidase inhibitors might be useful in preventing genesis of autoimmunity during infection, although this possibility has not been formally tested.

In general, it is a time-honored naturopathic technique to fast (or at least limit intake of certain types of foods) during fasting. This may now have some scientific backup, since it has been reported that an inordinate number of chronic food sensitivities develop after acute gastrointesinal infection. This article points out (although the point was originally proposed by the British immunologist David Freed) that changes to the intestinal tract that occur during infection can produce alterations in host recognition that produce targets for antibody production. If we consider ABO blood groups as one of the 'genetic variants' alluded to by the author, it makes a strong case for closely adhering to the ABO diet specific for your type when attempting to fight off an infection -much more preferable to complete fasting, since fighting infection is energy intesive, and does require substantial calories from the diet.

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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