Carcinogenic trans Fats Detoxified by Glutathione
The evolution of humans over millions of years has proceeded hand-in-hand with that of our food, both plants and animals. Food was recognized as the best treatment for diseases by ancient Greek doctors thousands of years ago, and by the Chinese even earlier (Mather et al., 2003).
Carcinogenic trans Fats Detoxified by Glutathione
By Alicja Zobel
Trent University, Peterborough, Ontario, Canada K9J 7B8
The evolution of humans over millions of years has proceeded hand-in-hand with that of our food, both plants and animals. Food was recognized as the best treatment for diseases by ancient Greek doctors thousands of years ago, and by the Chinese even earlier (Mather et al., 2003). Two basic reactions of humans are pleasure or fear, and we love food, which can give us great pleasure as well as keeping us alive. With too little food we may starve to death, but too much, in contrast, will make us fat and lead to chronic diseases or even death. Our bodily biochemistry needs so many calories per day to keep our life processes going, as well as special proportions of minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Vitamin C is essential and must be provided in our food, and so are some amino acids, fatty acids and minerals, as our bodies cannot produce it and do not even cultivate in our intestines the special bacteria that can do so, as in the case of B vitamins.
So, over millions of years humans have eaten, digested, and split locally available food into its essential building blocks, accustoming ourselves to certain natural foods, and discovering by experience that some are good, some even medicinal, and some poisonous (Berdanier, 2002). Being a biochemist and phytochemist, studying chemicals in plants – natural products – I recognize that there are over a hundred thousand different natural products produced by plants (Buckingham, 2004), together with which humans have evolved. It is only within about the past century that we have been eating highly processed food – less than 0.01% of our evolutionary history and not enough time for us to adapt to the presence of new, mostly man-made, substances in our diet. We can call them foreign compounds, recognized by our body’s immune system as allergens. They can be toxic and carcinogenic (NRC, 1982; WHO, 1985; Altrug, 2002; Dabrowski and Sikorski, 2004; Gauellin and Triggle, 2004; MacDougall, 2003; Whit-aker, 2004). New toxins are being discovered in common foods unexpectedly, such as trans fats and acrylamides (Young et al., 1979; Vasavada and Padayalti, 1981).
Evolution was never progressing so fast as now, additionally with genetic manipulation. The countries of the Western World have become fast food nations, especially in North America. Researchers have proved that cancer starts with one mutant cell. The more mutations the more chances of cancer, and because cells multiply throughout our lives and we have billions of cells, we produce some nine or ten cancer cells every day. These are detected and eliminated by special cells produced by our immune system, but sometimes one such mother cancer cell escapes, and small cancers are formed; the process of carcinogenesis starts and again our immune system keeps such groups of cells in check. It takes ten to fifteen years for one to attain a diameter of one millimetre, and only increased feeding by blood vessels by then growing in it allows it to grow faster. This gives us time to fight small cancers, live with them and keep them in check, and kill them through the action of our wonderful immune system.
Foreign compounds can be allergenic, mutagenic and carcinogenic. Glutathione is one of the most important detoxification molecules – the master antioxidant, binding to such harmful compounds and removing them from our bodies. Thus, I believe, the most important defense is to produce enough glutathione in each and every cell of our bodies.
1. Glutathione, a tripeptide built of glycine-cysteine-glutamic acid, is a molecule that allows us to lead a healthy life.
2. Glutathione scavenges the free radicals, detoxifies pesticides and reacts as the ultimate antioxidant in every cell.
3. As reduced glutathione has to be produced inside every cell. Cysteine as its pre-cursor needs to be available in the diet in the form of peptides.
4. In evolution glutathione most likely had to start its protective reaction early so that ultraviolet radiation did not damage cells of the first organisms colonizing the land.
5. Over 60% of all pesticides are removed from the human body bound to gluta-thione.
6. Glutathione reduced Vitamins C and E back to their beneficial forms after oxida-tion during metabolism.
7. Vitamin C would itself become a free radical after oxidation if not reduced again by glutathione.
8. Intercellular glutathione absorbed with digested food detoxifies fluids in the ground substance that surrounds cells, thus preventing toxins from penetrating into the cells.
9. Glutathione will become a buzzword of the 21st century.
10. I hope we shall pay as much attention to glutathione as to levels of glucose and cholesterol in our blood.
11. Glutathione as the ultimate antioxidant can exist in several isomeric forms.
12. Glutathione is a potential detoxifier making every cell of our body healthy, and thus we should stimulate its production within the cells.
So, if we have enough glutathione in every cell, the foreign compounds produced by the environment would not be so dangerous to our genes and to our health. The toxification of even such a relatively pristine environment as Canada seems to be is progressing at a frightening speed, doubling every ten years according to Statistics Canada. Thus, the low level of glutathione in humans would be more pronounced. I am wondering if, with all these orthodox medical achievements, our efforts to elimi-nate cancers are not benefiting from this achievement, and cancer incidences are even on the rise. So my suggestion might be that one of the causes of cancer could be unnoticed, continuously lowering glutathione production connected with lifestyle changes such as lower consumption of colostrum by babies, milk serum and eggs, which would lead to lower availability of cysteine-rich peptides. It was clinically proved that a cysteine-rich diet (milk serum) was preventing childhood cancers (Davies et al., 1988; Mather et al., 1993) and help adults fight cancer (Papenburg et al., 1990; Laurson et al., 1990; Kennedy et al., 1995). It was shown that selective modulation of glutathione leads in human normal versus tumour cells to subsequent differential response to chemotherapy drugs (Russo et al., 1986; Baruchell et al., 1995).
The second group of important compounds are good fats, essential fatty acids, once plentiful in our diets, such as those in flax, which is coming back, and, I hope, hemp seeds also. These are alpha-linolenic acid and linoleic acid, both existing in the cis form (Figs. 1 and 2). Because these are so important, functioning as our necessary allies in health sustainability, everyone should know them. I hope that chemistry textbooks in our schools will start with a picture of each of them. Here is a picture of the cis form, in comparison to the trans, which is bad, and the only difference is the spatial arrangement. This cis form is bent at the unsaturated double bond, because two hydrogen atoms are on the same side of the chain, pushing its sides downward. That is the way plants’ enzymes synthesize the cis form of the omega-3 fatty acids, and this form is recognized by the human enzymes. During evolution we ate them raw, and only recently have we started to process our food at temperatures over 130 degrees. This temperature provides so much energy to the molecule that it straightens out, forming the trans form, which is bad for us. I explain it to my students to remember that it is like a situation when our grand-mother ordered her stooped child to straighten up. So, from a relaxed position it is quite an effort to keep straight. This energy, in case of the formation of trans fats, comes from the higher temperature of food processing. Keeping this in mind I should like to see higher pressure used, so that temperatures could be lowered for future processed food, especially for children.
Experts have recently begun to suggest that essential fatty acid (EFA) deficiency is far more widespread than was formerly believed. Our bodies contain ca. 200 mL of alpha-linolenic acid and one litre of linoleic acid. The deficiency symptoms, which resemble many symptoms of diseases connected with fatty degeneration, are as follows:
Impairment of learning ability
Tingling sensations in arms and legs
Eczema-like skin eruptions
Loss of hair
Excessive water loss through the skin accompanied by thirst
Drying up of glands
Susceptibility to infections
Failure of wound healing
Sterility in males
Miscarriage in females
We inhabitants of village and cities should produce at least some healthy food ourselves. This idea came to me when I was writing to the Canadian Minister of Agriculture to encourage a healthy lifestyle; move more and grow some foods, at least herbs, yourself. In Poland I know that there are small gardens, about 20 x 20 metres, and they are the most productive soils and sources of naturally grown vege-tables and fruits. Then we’d still need a friendly farmer to provide free-range animals, especially beef. Professor Aleksandrowycz, even before the Second World War, wrote that animals raised and killed brutally contain toxic compounds dange-rous to human health. The free-range beef delivers more of conjugated linoleic acid, important for humans because they prevent cancer (Rozycka, 2003). Farm animals, especially on large farms with thousands of cattle, got several growth hormones and antibiotics, and their aggressiveness increased, perhaps leading to unhealthy meat for consumption (Daniewska, 2003; Zobel et al. 2004).
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Dr Alicja Zobel