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Microbial transglutaminase the hero & the villain, of processed foods
You’re health conscious or maybe, you’re suffering from a health “crisis”. So, your first response to a food product, on the shelf, is WHAT IS IN IT ?
Will it work for me ? Or has it something, that is problematic…
Reading food labels
For me, I always pay attention to the amount of carbohydrates, in the product, since as someone who is insulin resistant, I know, carbs are my kryptonite.
But, what about the things, NOT listed ?
- food pollutants, they’re not deliberately added, but, they’re there. Examples persistent organic pollutants and microplastics
- Enzymes used in the manufacturing process
These aren’t often talked about, but a couple of researchers, from a German based think tank, think they should be. The enzymes, of concern are microbial transglutaminase, sometimes referred to as “meat glue”.
It is considered SAFE and widely used, in food production, it pops up in everything………. from pastries, to polony.
It’s estimated that the average person, in the Western world, consumes around 15 mg/day.
If you scrutinize those food labels, it’s NEVER listed as an ingredient.
Because, it has GRAS status i.e. generally recognized as safe and as such, manufacturers are NOT required to list it, in the ingredients, because, it’s NOT an ingredient, but a processing agent.
Besides, the amounts of tiny.
What’s a milligram between friends
An individual product might have a mg or two, at the most. A milligram, is thousandth of a gram. And a gram, is something you can barely see.
So, what is the fuss ?
Well, this is the standard response.
Food manufacturers LOVE it and regulatory authorities, aren’t worried.
After all – it’s 100 % natural and, it’s been part of biology, since the beginning of time….
You see, transglutaminases, are a family of enzyme, found in pretty much, every living creature. We’ve got them, the plants and animals, we eat have them, so do the bacteria, fungi and viruses, living in out gut.
And they do, pretty cool chemistry.
They “stick” things together – specifically, they “stick” a lysine, onto glutamine, creating a VERY strong bond, which is hard to break down.
The “stickiness” it what food manufacture’s LOVE.
Transglutaminases can be thought of as, the GLUE, that holds processed foods together.
- shelf life
They even, decrease calories. Yah !
And a little goes ALONG WAY. It’s the enzyme way.
Enzymes have utility
If you remember from high school biology, the definition of an enzyme, is that it is a catalyst i.e. it makes reactions happen, but is not used up, by the reaction.
So although 1 mg, is quite literally a drop, in the ocean.
1 mg, can do A LOT of chemistry.
And every glutamine that is encountered is a possible target. Every glutamine….
So where do glutamine’s hang out ?
The short answer, you would be hard pressed to find a protein, that doesn’t have a couple of glutamines, in it. But, there is one protein, which stands out, for it’s high glutamine content.
Gliadin – commonly referred to as gluten.
It’s the protein, behind celiac disease.
When someone has celiac disease, their immune system, has taken a particular dislike, to this protein and, at every opportunity, tries to take it down.
Unfortunately, as part of the normal digestive process, gliadin, ends up, being concentrated, in the cells lining, the gut mucosa. Which means, the immune system, keeps taking pot shots, at the cells lining the gut. The constant bombardment, leaves a wake of destruction.
Terrible tummy aches and nutrient deficiencies follow.
Sometimes the attack, moves beyond the gut.
But, what sparks the immune system’s “hate” for gliadin ?
Well, there must be a particular groove, in the pattern recognition system (HLA-DQ2/8) of the CD4+ T cells, to get the immune system, in a frothy. Not all immune systems have this, so not all immune systems react, to the protein.
But something has to IGNITE the “war”, against gliadin.
Could it be the microbial transglutaminase ?
A growing body of science, suggests, microbial transglutaminase are partly to blame, for the rise in autoimmune diseases, particularly celiac disease.
Gluten has 30 % glutamine and less than 2 % lysine, so when a microbial transglutaminase, rubs up against, gluten, it’s going to get busy.
It will tie the gluten protein, up in knots, creating all sorts of new shapes. And thanks to the toughness of the newly formed, bonds……….. the shapes, are permanent fixtures.
If the gut, is a little leaky…………..
You’re seriously ugly
The odds, that some of these, alternative shaped, gluten molecules, slips beyond the intestinal barrier and enters the circulation, is high.
If enough of them do.
Sensitive immune systems, GO TO WAR.
And the rest is history……
There are other glutamine rich proteins, so gluten is probably the tip, of the iceberg.
One particularly important one, is MUC2 mucin – it is a protein, secreted by the cells lining the gut. Our own, transglutaminase, acts on this, helping to create a thick layer of mucus, which our “good” bacteria LOVE.
The presence of “high” levels of microbial transglutaminase, in the “wrong” place, can and does impact the functioning of this important layer.
Encouraging dysbiosis and other gut troubles…..
This, is a recipe for BAD BODY CHEMISTRY.
“Leaky” guts have been implicated in a variety of chronic inflammatory conditions, including
- metabolic, and
- tumoral diseases.
The incidence of all of these conditions is increasing and tracks the adoption of Western diets / the consumption of ultra processed foods.
JERF i.e. Just Eat Real Food
No matter how vigilant you are, avoiding a non-listed ingredient, is going to be a challenge…. until, food regulations change and they will……….EVENTUALLY.
Protect yourself by opting to eat REAL FOOD, as much as possible.
And go “LITE” on commercial gluten free foods…
Current insight and futuristic vistas of microbial transglutaminase in nutraceutical industry. Microbiological Research 215 (2018) 7–14. Syeda Warisul Fatima, Sunil K. Khare.
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