The New Era of Glyconutrients

by Nickolaos D. Skouras, PhD.

The most important discovery of this century for the immune system may be something called glyconutrients. They are not vitamins, minerals, herbals, homeopathics or enzymes. They are a class all to themselves. They are supplements derived from nature that have been formulated based on a new understanding in biochemistry of how our bodies maintain health at the cellular level.

Our Immune Systems at Risk

Cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases (e.g. lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis), osteoporosis, genetic diseases, foreign viruses. AIDS, and infant mortality seem to be more prevalent today than ever. Why are we experiencing these mounting health challenges?

The reasons are quite simple. According to the 1992 Earth Summit, the USA has the worst soil in the world - 85% depleted. This means the potency of our food supply is not able to sustain optimum health. The amount of toxins in our environment has reached a level where the FDA now has designated "permissible" levels of dioxin and other harmful chemicals in the environment. Today we have over 300 chemical toxins including dioxin in the tissues that were not found in any human before 1940. These toxins have been shown to bind to receptors, blocking important enzymatic reactions in the body. One of the harmful effects of toxins such as DDT and dioxins is that they mimic hormones in the body causing disruption and confusion in the endocrine system.

Processed food and fast foods are depriving us of even more essential nutrients. Many scientists believe that commercial farming, which burns out nutrients and adds poisons to the soil, as well as shipping foods "green" to ripen upon trucks, are major contributors to ill health. Many corporations continue activities harmful to our health to increase profits at the cost of our ecosystem and food chain. They do not inform the public about the true extent of the problem created by toxic substances and harmful additives in our foods nor about the environmental pollution generated from their manufacturing plants. The recent movie, A Civil Action, depicts this lack of accountability in the corporate arena. Finally, according to research scientist named Andreas Hartman "A class of broad spectrum antibiotics in drinking water is causing toxicity to human DNA! Given these harsh challenges, one might seriously ask how can we best protect ourselves and optimize our health?

Our Body's Capability to Defend and Protect Itself

Every human is equipped with natural killer cells that identify and kill tumor cells and cells infected with viruses or some types of fungi or bacteria. Thus, the body has the genetic capacity to defend itself against viruses and bacterias, to cleanse itself of destructive toxins, to absorb and utilize nutrients for fuel, and to heal itself from practically any kind of damage or disease. So why doesn't it always perform these functions? Research studies that have followed our immune system function over time have shown that on average, Americans have lost over 25% of natural killer cell function (our first line of defense) over the past 15 years due to toxins, viruses, and daily stresssors. It seems we have the ability, but are lacking the energy required to adequately protect, detoxify, and heal.

New Discoveries in Glycobiology

Healthy bodies, comprised of many components working together in sophisticated harmony, must have accurate biochemical communication to function correctly. In its most basic form, this communication occurs at the cellular level and is referred to by molecular biologists as cell-to-cell communication. When you look at any body function, it is clear they all require cellular communication. A major breakthrough has occurred recently with the discovery of how our cells communicate; that cells have a language, made up of "letters" and "words." The "words" are called glycoproteins made up of various sugar molecules known as saccharides attached in pearl-like strands to protein stems. Some of the connections for the saccharides are to lipids forming glycolipids. These "words" extend off the surface of every cell and can change thousands of times in a second. Cells actually touch each other to communicate reading each other's cell surface messages. Disease and dysfunction occurs when the components necessary for cell-to-cell communication are absent. As John Hodgson wrote in an article called "Capitalizing on Carbohydrates", "Almost without exception, whenever two or more living cells interact in a specific way, cell surface carbohydrates will be involved. From the first meeting of sperm and egg, through embryo genesis, development and growth, carbohydrate molecules confer exquisite specificity upon cell-cell interactions.

The Key to Healthy Cells and Healthy Bodies

An increasing number of research scientists and doctors believe that eight specific carbohydrates (saccharides), represent the key to cellular communication as these sugars combine with proteins to create the glycoprotein chemical messengers. Only two of the eight are commonly found in our typical modem diets: glucose and galactose. The other sugars are Mannose, Fucose, Xylose, N- Acetylglucosamine, N-Acetylgalactosamine, and N-Acetylneuraminic acid. The body has the potential to convert glucose and galactose to the other six through enzyme exchanges. However, the conversion process requires considerable energy, and is susceptible to interference from certain disease processes, various medications and free radicals. Oxidative damage from free radicals can also cause destruction of existing glycoprotein structures, making it necessary to convert some sugars into others to repair the damage. Living in our current environment, our bodies simply cannot keep up with this conversion/repair process. Further validation of the essential nature of these carbohydrates can be found in an article about the immune-enhancing benefits of breastfeeding. Five of the eight carbohydrates thought to be essential for cell-to-cell communication are ingredients in human breast milk and also in the glyconutrient formulas.

Early Research Results with Glyconutrient Supplementation

The potential for supporting our immune systems and enhancing cell-to-cell communication with glyconutnents is profound. One immunologist, Dr. Darryl See has found that natural killer cell activity increases by 50 percent after glyconutritional supplementation in the average healthy Person. With glyconutritional supplementation among chronic fatigue patients who have impaired immune system function, natural killer cell activity has been shown to increase by over 400 percent. There is a growing body of scientific studies supporting the potential health benefits of glyconutritional supplementation for various health conditions including fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, ADHD diabetes, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and lupus. A new study, published in February 1999 reported a 95% kil ing activity of the Candida Albicans yeast in incubation with glyconutritional supplementation.

More studies are now underway due to the breakthrough findings in this initial research period In summary glyconutntional supplements seem to allow the human body to manifest more of its potential by enhancing cellular communication. These nutrients may be a critical component in supporting the natural function of the immune system which is at risk in our toxic, denatured enviorment.

References:

  1. Nugent S,The Grapevine, American Nutraceutical Association, 1998
  2. Guillette L, Hamilton Spectator, Ontario, Canada, February 2, 1998.
  3. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, March 1998.
  4. See DM, Khemka P, Sahl L, Bui T, Tilles JG. The Role of Natural Killer Cells in Viral Infections. Scand J Immunol 1997
  5. Murray et al, Harper"s Biochemistry, 24th edition, 1996
  6. Hodgson J, Capitalizing on Carbohydrates, Bio/Technology, 1990
  7. Hanson L, Breastfeeding Stimulates the Infant Immune System, Science & Medicine, 1997
  8. See DM, Cimoch P, Chous S, Chang J, Tilles J, The In Vitro Immunomodulatory Effects of Glyconutrients on Peripheral Blood Mononuclear Cells of Patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Integr Physiol Behav Sci 1998 Jul-Sep
  9. Proceedings of the Fisher Institute for Medical Research, November 1997; 1;
  10. Inntegr Physiol Behav Sci, January- March 1998; 49-71.
  11. Lefkowitz SS, Lefkowitz DL, Macrophage Candidicidal Activity of a Complete Glyconutritional Formulation versus Aloe Polymannose, Proceedings of the Fisher Institute for Medical Research, 1999