If I told you there was a chemical that could adversely affect every tissue in your body, what would you do?
According to the USDA, the proper response is to have it make up 30% of your diet. Also, make sure to tell any of those pesky nonconformists that everything is perfectly ok and to ignore the research at hand.
What I’m talking about is transglutaminase, an enzyme that is present in all foods that contain gluten, like our lovely dinner rolls. It is located in gluten based proteins.
Mechanisms and Action
Transglutaminases are actually a class of enzymes, many of which are produced in the body and are responsible for actions such as blood clotting. For the purposes of this discussion, I will be referring to transglutaminase that is found in wheat proteins.
As an enzyme, it acts to break down and reform bonds between protein and the amino acid glutamine. This allows for some pretty fun stuff to happen. For example, transglutaminase is being used in some avant garde restaurants today to make dishes like pasta made almost entirely out of shrimp. By breaking down proteins and rebonding them, it can turn almost anything protein based into a glue.
Sound fun? Now imagine those same bonds being formed within your body. Now obviously eating a bagel won’t turn you into a big pile of meat glue, but on a cellular level, reactions like that can take place anywhere transglutaminase can reach. In the context of your body after eating wheat, this means any tissue that is nourished by your bloodstream.
Transglutaminase is responsible for many of the inflammatory effects of gluten. Proteins make up some of the most important tissues in the body and transglutaminase has the ability to alter the bonds of any of them. As protein’s effectiveness is determined by it’s shape,
this can drastically change the functions
of many cells and tissues.
It should come as no surprise that some serious diseases have been linked to transglutaminase. The most obvious one is celiac disease, in which gluten proteins wreak havoc on the intestinal lining. It has also showed up as a factor in Huntington’s Disease, in which cells of the brain are altered causing mental decline and certain death.
Posttranslational modification – Every cell
But you don’t have to have a disease to be affected. The scariest consequence of transglutaminase is that it has the potential to alter the way your DNA is expressed. Posttranslational modification (PTM) refers to the process in which DNA is modified after leaving the nucleus in the form of RNA. Without directly changing the DNA, it affects how it is expressed, which can completely change the function of the protein being coded and the cell itself.
An increasing amount of research is pointing to the fact that transglutaminase from gluten can and will affect your cells through PTM. From affecting T-cells in your immune system to the ability to recognize cancer cells, the consequences of including gluten in your diet are cropping up everywhere.
Science can only progress so fast and while the individual effects of gluten based transglutaminase are still being found, people have known for years that removing grain from the diet can result in better health and wellness. Think about it next time someone passes you the rolls or you consider adding a drum of flour to your survival foods store.