This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
When I was studying to receive my Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at the University of Bridgeport, diet and nutrition were a large part of our curriculum.
We studied the biochemistry of many different foods and diets, and looked at their efficacy for optimal health, prevention of disease and weight loss. During my clinical rotations, I implemented many of these diets into patients’ treatment plans, but there was one diet that I saw consistently change people’s lives: The Blood Type Diet.
I remember the first time I read about it: A diet based on the type of blood flowing through my veins? What could that have to do with anything? Well, in actuality the type of blood your heart has been pumping all your life could dictate which foods will decrease your risk for heart disease. In fact, your blood type and its relationship with your body could also be responsible for those extra pounds you can’t seem to lose.
While some criticize the blood type diet, calling it a “fad diet” with little foundation in nutritional history, researchers have actually revealed impressive scientific evidence to support Dr. Peter D’Adamo’s blood type diet.
Let’s start with the basics behind the ABO blood grouping system. This system separates blood into four different categories based on specific chemical structures on the surface of each our red blood cells. These structures are called antigens, markers found on the cells of the body that play a large role in the functionality of the immune system. So, blood group A has an “A” antigen, blood group B has a “B” antigen, blood group AB has both “A” and “B” antigens and blood group O has no antigens.
How Blood Type and Immune Response Go Hand in Hand
Because of each blood type’s ability to modulate a different set of specific antibodies, the Y-shaped proteins that work to identify foreign bacteria and viruses in the body, someone who is blood type A is born with the ability to recognize that this type A antigen is “an approved” part of his system. Likewise, this person is also born with the ability to recognize that a type B antigen is not part of his system, therefore, the body will view a type B antigen as a potential threat that could be dangerous.
Once the foreigner is known, antibodies attach to the antigens and a reaction called agglutination occurs. Agglutination is a fancy term for cells clumping together and, in the case of a blood transfusion with the wrong blood type, agglutination can be deadly!
Scientifically speaking, it would seem that these factoids about blood type and how it relates to immunity would be unrelated to dietary recommendations. But as scientists started to examine the various chemical structures in our food, they discovered lectin, a sugar-binding protein molecule with a structure similar to some antibodies.
A lectin is a type of molecule present in different types of plants, grains and animals. Essentially, lectins are present in most of the foods that we consume. Because lectins are similar in shape to certain antibodies, they can behave in a similar way, causing potentially dangerous reactions with our blood type antigens — depending on one’s blood type.
Remember the agglutination reaction? When you eat a food containing lectins that are not compatible with your blood type, that same agglutination reaction occurs on a much smaller scale. Now, this does not mean that eating the wrong food could cause an immediate deadly reaction, but eating foods with the wrong lectins over a life time can increase your risk for different diseases, cause premature aging and simply make you feel bad. On the flip side, eating the right foods for your blood type can actually lower your risk for disease, slow down the aging process and make you feel like a million dollars.
Stay tuned: everything you wanted to know about Blood Type O is coming soon.
- Goldstein, Irwin J and Hayes, Colleen E. The Lectins; Carbohydrate-Binding Proteins of Plants and Animals. Advances in Carbohydrate Chemisty and Biochemistry. 1978. Vol. 35. 127-340.