Last night Dr. Andrew Weil was on the CNN's The Larry King Show. Dr. Weil, reacted to a question about blood types and diet with the response that he thought of the BTD had "no scientific basis". He verified this by saying that if people tested the blood of dogs they would say they should be vegetarian rather than carnivores. I have already addressed this mistaken assertion of Dr. Weil's (humans and other species glycosylate their tissues differently, and linkages of certain physiologic functions to the blood group genes also vary by species), but it seems that he needs to keep re-asserting this incredibly naive argument.
In a series of rotating criticisms Dr. Weil other venues asserted that the problem with the BTD was that he "sees no convincing link between lectins and the molecules which determine blood type." (AARP Magazine) After being subsequently challenged by numerous editorial letters, he eventually responded that "he did not agree with restrictive diets." I've previously responded to Dr. Weil's assertions in this blog, but wanted to resurrect my most recent response and make it a bit more current.
Finally I'd like to challenge Dr. Weil to an open forum discussion of the scientific merits of the theories and associations developed, observed or reported by myself and my father. This can occur at any time or place of his choosing. If he is as committed to investigating the truth of his assertions as one would suspect, I have no doubt that he will be as anxious as I for this to occur. I can be contacted through this blog, or at my clinic.
[Now on to the previous blog entry]
The more I read of Andrew Weil's efforts to debunk the work of my father and myself, the more I'm convinced I can't simply turn the other cheek and let these so-called skeptics just get away with disingenuous portrayals of the science behind this diet. His recent slag-job in AARP Magazine is just more proof that I will need to react in a timely and concise manner going forward.
"D'Adamo theorizes that the basis for such differences is our reactions to certain food proteins called lectins. Lectins are common in plant foods, especially grains and beans, and may be involved in food allergies and some immune disorders. But there is no convincing evidence for any interactions between lectins and the molecules that determine blood type."
"Yet some people swear the blood type diet has worked for them. There's a reason for that. Making changes in how we eat is not easy. To follow any prescribed dietary program with rules and restrictions represents a significant commitment of mental energy toward self-improvement. That alone can lead to a greater sense of well-being and better health. But if you want to eat a better diet, I recommend you rely on information grounded in nutritional science."
I think I got on Dr. Weil's bad side a few years ago when I replied to a question posed to me about my recommendation that blood type As eat peanuts, while Dr. Weil was saying that peanuts were dangerous because of the aflatoxin. My response was that this was a silly piece of advice since the only place you can get aflatoxin is in health food stores when you grind your own peanut butter; all the commercial forms must be assayed for it before they can be sold.
Over the next few years Dr. Weil kept up a consistent attack on me and the theory, usually basing his case on the rather odd observation that animals have blood types and yet don't follow the Blood Type Diet.
However with the AARP column Dr. Weil instead shifted to what he considers the lack of proven association between dietary lectins and blood groups.
It's a bad place to pick an argument, since at that point the argument moves up the academic ladder to areas he would be wise to not tread. There are numerous and well-documented links between lectins and blood groups. Searching MEDLINE for the terms ABO Blood Groups and Lectins yields 687 published studies In fact the term ‘lectin’ was derived in 1954 from the Latin for legere, to pick or choose, it having been coined thus to call attention to their blood type specificity.
Dr. Weil's claim appears to have not been researched to any great degree since it appears to me to have been taken from an incorrect assertion that often finds its way onto the Wikipedia entry on the Blood Type Diet.
In fact, blood group specificity is listed as one of the nine major factors influencing glycosylation in the gut (glycosylation is the process of manufacturing the sugar molecules that lectins bind with). Other factors include diet, age, animal species, disease and bacterial population.
Independent of the lectin hypothesis, in my opinion the secretory differences (digestive enzymes, etc.) between the blood groups are an even more significant reason behind the need for the tailoring nutritional needs to these genetic markers. But Dr. Weil doesn't know about these links or chooses to ignore them altogether. Then again, every critic seems to have their own favorite aspect of the theory.
Given his harsh take on my work, it was surprising to read some of his statements about the need for keeping an open mind about alternative medicine. Kinda wish he would practice what he preaches. In a reply to one of his own critics (Arnold S. Relman, editor-in-chief emeritus of the New England Journal of Medicine), he writes:
"As a researcher, you have the luxury of insisting on rigorous scientific testing, and you have the leisure to wait for results to come in. As a practitioner, you are in the trenches, working with patients who have medical needs. And you often have to guess, and you have to make use of your best medical judgment in the absence of definitive evidence."
No argument there.
"In my experience-- I consider experience to be one valuable source of data--many patients use alternative methods because they find that they work. And if a patient has tried a method and found that it works, that patient needs no further proof, does not need to read the reports of a randomized, double-blind, controlled trial in a medical journal to be convinced of the efficacy of treatment."
"I don't think you can have it both ways; you can't demand evidence, and then when evidence comes in that contradicts your preconceptions, say you aren't going to look at it."
Words to live by.
Now if Dr. Weil were to keep an open mind, I'd recommend that he read up on the work of William Boyd, who first wrote of the blood type specificity of lectins more than a half centry ago  or review the research of Martin Nachbar from the 1980's. Lots of interesting stuff there. A trip to MEDLINE would also be helpful.,,
In an article critical of Dr. Weil written for the New Republic Relman touched on many of Weil's factual inconsistencies and concluded that:
Weil considers himself an authority on almost every field of medicine. 
Finally, it could be argued that the possible reason Dr. Weil supplies for why some people swear that the blood type diet has worked for them ("a significant commitment of mental energy toward self-improvement") may well be the exact same reason some people derive benefits from his own books, tapes and recommendations!
But let's at least end on a somewhat positive note, with a quote from someone who does have experience with lectins. Gerhard Uhlenbruck is one of about three or four top lectinologists of the last century and renowned for discovering the structure of the Thomsen-Friedenreich antigens and the structure and specificity of (aflatoxin-free, I'm sure) peanut lectin. This is what he recently said:
When I first heard of Peter D'Adamo's blood group diet, of course I was very skeptical: Should we have missed in our book (Prokop/ Uhlenbruck: Human Blood and Serum Groups) such an important aspect? But years later, my interest switched to the nutritional field while working on the so-called Metabolic Syndrome, my interest increased in studying the role of genes in metabolic processes. I found out, that Peter D'Adamo's blood group orientated diet could probably be a first step in the right direction..
Back soon with a more positive, happy and helpful blog.
This Transfusion: Sword swallowers and sore throats | ABO in Neanderthals| Blood groups and endometriosis | Nutrigenomics and personalized diets | This News This Week
Welcome to The Weekly Transfusion, 1.6 for the week of April 26, 2009.
Sore throats more common in sword swallowers
Sword swallowers run a higher risk of injury when they are distracted or adding embellishments to their performance, but injured performers have a better prognosis than patients who suffer iatrogenic perforation....Major gastrointestinal bleeding sometimes occurs, and occasional chest pains tend to be treated without medical advice. Sword swallowers without healthcare coverage expose themselves to financial as well as physical risk.
I guess it is just that old 'occupational hazard' story, sort of like the study that discovered that woodpeckers don't seem to get headaches.
Genetic characterization of the ABO blood group in Neanderthals
The high polymorphism rate in the human ABO blood group gene seems to be related to susceptibility to different pathogens. It has been estimated that all genetic variation underlying the human ABO alleles appeared along the human lineage, after the divergence from the chimpanzee lineage. A paleogenetic analysis of the ABO blood group gene in Neandertals allows us to directly test for the presence of the ABO alleles in these extinct humans. We have analysed two male Neandertals that were retrieved under controlled conditions at the El Sidron site in Asturias (Spain) and that appeared to be almost free of modern human DNA contamination. We find a human specific diagnostic deletion for blood group O (O01 haplotype) in both Neandertal individuals. These results suggest that the genetic change responsible for the O blood group in humans predates the human and Neandertal divergence. A potential selective event associated with the emergence of the O allele may have therefore occurred after humans separated from their common ancestor with chimpanzees and before the human-Neandertal population divergence.
Certainly one of the major evolutionary advantages of being blood type O was their double-barreled antibodies; this blood type being the only one that reacts to both “A things” and “B things” in the environment. This probably provided an extra layer of protection against any number of epidemic diseases (plague, smallpox) and many endemic ones (flukes and parasites) as well. If this immune “hyper-vigilance” would go on to increase the rates of inflammation and auto-immune disease in their modern descendants, it should also be remembered that these are often diseases of later life, typically past child bearing and rearing age. Thus if it were a late-model alteration, it certainly provided a significant survival advantage. The Founder Effect can be seen in the characteristics and distribution of the genes for Rhesus Negative and O blood type among the early Mesolithic Period during the so called- ‘Happy Paleo’ period, which also shows some correlation with the ancestral haplogroups R1b and I. On the other hand blood type A seems to have conveyed a better chance of surviving the ‘lean’ period of the early Neolithic; a slightly different, perhaps better way to starve. Type A’s more tolerant immune system may have given them the benefit when it came widening the diet and exploring new foods.
ABO and Rh blood groups distribution in patients with endometriosis.
The blood group A was more predominant in women with endometriosis, while blood group O was less predominant. The overall risk of women with endometriosis and A blood group was 2.89 (95%CI, 1.85-4.52). No significant difference was detected in ABO and Rh blood groups in women with endometriosis according to the severity of disease. CONCLUSION: Women with endometriosis have a 2.9-fold increased risk in the A blood group distribution. The role of blood groups in the development of endometriosis remains to be determined.
I verified the observation back in 1988, when we were observing whether increases in opposing blood group antibodies were associated with any reproductive illnesses. We observed that in our small endometriosis group, all women were type A, and all virtually had elevated antibodies to foreign blood types (in their case, blood type B ). It did seem at he time to be an area ripe for future research, but I never got back to it. It is nice to see that others have observed the same tendencies.
The antibodies in the ABO system (isoagglutinins) called anti-A and anti-B are not normally present at birth. The antibodies develop between 3-6 months of age due to the stimulation of the newborn’s immune system by microbes and foods that possess antigens of an opposing blood type. In, for example, type O children, they will begin forming to type A and B red cell antigens as soon as the child starts eating food, because the A and B antigens are actually found in quite a number of plants. So, as soon as the child starts eating plant food, she'll be exposed to those antigens and start making antibodies against them.
Nutrigenomics and Personalized Diet: From Molecule to Intervention and Nutri-ethics
The relationships between food, nutrition science, and health outcomes have been intensively analyzed over the past century. Genomic variation among individuals and populations is a new factor that enriches and challenges our understanding of these complex relationships. Hence, the rapidly emerging intersection of nutritional science and genomics - nutrigenomics - was the focus of a special issue of OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology in December 2008 (Part 1). The OMICS Nutrigenomics Special Issue (Part 2) February 2009 is The relationships between food, nutrition science, and health outcomes have been intensively analyzed over the past century. Genomic variation among individuals and populations is a new factor that enriches and challenges our understanding of these complex relationships. Hence, the rapidly emerging intersection of nutritional science and genomics - nutrigenomics - was the focus of a special issue of OMICS: A Journal of Integrative Biology in December 2008 (Part 1). The OMICS Nutrigenomics Special Issue (Part 2) February 2009 is now available free online
Two entire issues on personalized nutrition with virtually no mention of any of the bio-markers that really determine individualized dietary functionality: ABO blood groups and secretor status. Maybe these bio-markers are just too low-tech for the average scientist. More likely, the nay-sayers behind the smear campaign I've had to endure over the last ten years have had their desired effects.
No matter, if you read enough history you soon realize that Billy Shakespeare had it right: 'Truth will out.'
News of the Week
- April 28 2009: Dr. Peter D'Adamo - Lecture at Backus Hospitalthe basics of 'Eating Right For Your Type.' Open to the general public. More information
- June 5-7 2009: Personalized Medicine in Form and Function. A weekend intensive seminar with naturopathic physician, scientist and author, Dr. Peter J. D'Adamo in Norwalk, CT. This seminar provides training in personalized nutrition determination using blood grouping, secretor status, epigenetic indicators, dermatoglyphics and biometrics. Extensive overview of the latest clinical and laboratory techniques, information systems and pharmacology. Certification will also be offered. Presented by the Institute for Human Individuality. CME's may be available. More information. SEATING IS EXTREMELY LIMITED. RESERVE YOUR SEATS NOW!
Until next time.
I think yesterday’s Grand Rounds at The University of Bridgeport went well. As seems to be the case more and more these days, I had a surfeit of material; much more than I could contain within the two hours allotted --even though I had limited the lecture to only the first part of standard presentation (‘Adjusting People to Genes’).
Dr. Natalie Colicci, my associate over at the D’Adamo Clinic and an alumnus of the Naturopathic Program at UB, thought it was a success and the students (third and fourth year) paid seemingly rapt attention.
It was nice to also see a few of my associates from bygone days including Dr. Eugene Zampieron, Dr. Leigh White and Dr. Ginger Nash-Wolfe.
UB/ND’s Dean, Dr. Guru Sandesh Singh Khalsa and Associate Deans Dr. Elizabeth Pimentel and Dr. Christina Arbogast Woolard have done a wonderful job getting this program up and running. After the lecture Dr. Arbogast gave us a tour of the teaching facility and the University Clinic, which was most impressive. I enjoyed meeting many of the students, administrators and faculty and was pleased to see that a generally positive, professional and pleasant tone permeated the facility. The UB Clinic sees a lot of economically disadvantaged families from the Greater Bridgeport area --many of whom would not normally be able to afford naturopathic health services on any sort of limited budget.
Dr. Arbogast and I talked about my doing some type of special shift in the Clinic, where students who were interested in my research could receive some in-depth training. I’m sure we’ll revisit this sometime in the future, but the idea of teaching in a clinical environment did seem very attractive to me, if indeed a new obligation would appear to be the last thing I need in my life right now.
They asked me to come back in April to finish up the lecture and perhaps delve into some of the epigenetics material as well. I was surprised to hear from the students just how many were already registered for the IFHI 2009 Conference.
How refreshing was this reception as compared to overall apathy and lack of acceptance I’ve received at Bastyr University, my own alma mater. One of undergraduates recently wrote to tell me that during one of the nutrition classes he attended, the instructor proceeded to describe my work with blood groups as ‘unscientific’ and followed that assertion with a description of the ABH Secretor System which my friend described as ‘not having one single correct fact .’
How different is this Bastyr University from the school I knew and loved.
Gerhard Uhlenbruck, everybody’s favorite lectinologist, recently wrote to let me know that he had penned the forward to a new book ‘Micronutrients’ by Uwe Grober (MedPharm) and kindly included a copy. Very nice book which I anticipate will get some thumbing-through over at the D'Adamo Clinic.
A recent review article on ‘Dietary Lectins as Disease Causing Toxicants’ written by Rabia Hamid and Akbar Mascod (Pakistani Journal of Nutrition 8 (3) 293-303, 2009) referenced three of my works in its citation list.
The second sentence in its abstract just about says it all:
It is now well established that many lectins are toxic, inflammatory, resistant to cooking and digestive enzymes and present in much of our food.
Maybe I’ll send a copy over to Andrew Weil.
It would be nice if all the type O’s lived in one part of the world, and all the type A’s in another. However, this does not happen --much. The various blood groups are found pretty much all over the world. However they are not found in the same frequency everywhere. It was this difference in the frequency of the different blood types that gave the early blood type detectives their first insights into human individuality.
Soon after the ABO blood groups were discovered by Karl Landsteiner in the early 1900’s, scientists began to think about using them as a tool to help study the differences between populations. One of the first to begin using blood type in this manner was a husband and wife team, Ludwik and Hanka Hirszfeld. During World War I, they took blood samples from the soldiers of three continents then assembled in the area of Greece called Macedonia as “The Allied Army of the East.” In reality this army was a hodgepodge of battered contingents and survivors from various Allied nations which did little more than stay put in camp and suffer from constant epidemics. However the Hirszfelds realized that the international nature of this army presented opportunities of examining the serological properties of the blood of a large number of soldiers or civilians belonging to very different races.
They established three categories: One marked by a high percentage of subjects of blood type A and a low percentage of blood type B and which seemed to include the majority of European races (European type); A second showing on the contrary a high percentage of blood type B and a low one of blood type A, comprising Asians and Ethiopians (Asian-African type); and a last category containing approximately equal quantities of blood types A and B made up of Russians, Turks, Arabs and Jews, which they called an intermediate type.
The Hirszfelds invented an interesting and useful tool called the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index and which conveniently lets us express the ratio of blood group A to B in any population. The formula is very simple; you add up the number of blood type A and AB individuals in a population and then divide it by the number of blood type B and AB individuals. As so:
Hirszfeld Biochemical Index = [A + AB] /[B + AB]
Thus, the higher the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index of a population, the more blood type A people in that population over blood type B people in it; the lower, the more blood type B over A. The highest number in the Hirszfeld Biochemical Index (most As, least Bs) was found among the English troops (4.5); the lowest (most Bs, least As) were found in the Indian (0.5) and Vietnamese troops (0.8).
The work of the Hirszfelds would look crude in comparison to later, more sophisticated methods, and it suffers from the problems of all single-gene examinations of human diversity, that is there a no “pure races” to be identified by a single marker. But their discovery, published in 1919, did give rise to a considerable number of subsequent investigations, producing an enormous mass of documents of varying merit.
The arrival of blood typing signaled a new era in physical anthropology, since up to now the field had been limited to many of the physical measurements that I’ve previously described. Here now was a serologic, or blood marker, simple and easy to perform.
One of the first to begin using blood types as an anthropological tool was none other than William Boyd, who I’ve mentioned early in connection with the debunking of racism. In the years after the First World War, Boyd compiled the abundant blood group data coming from transfusion centers throughout the world. With his wife Lyle, during the 1930's, Boyd made a worldwide survey of the distribution of blood types. On this basis, he divided the world population into 13 geographically distinct races with different blood group genetic profiles. He also studied the blood groups of Egyptian and Amerindian mummies.
William Boyd appears to be one of those fascinating people who go on to dominate an entire area of research for a generation. It seems as if his creativity knew no bounds: I’ve already mentioned of his important work with Isaac Asimov used his work with blood types in Races and People to demolish the racist notions then commonly believed in this country during the 1950's; and here we are discussing his work on blood types and anthropology. But William Boyd accomplished much, much more than that. In the 1940’s Boyd noticed that the protein agglutinin in lima bean would agglutinate red cells of human blood type A but not those of O or B; he had in fact discovered that many of the of these blood agglutinins were actually specific to one blood type or another. With Elizabeth Shapely he coined their modern-day name; lectins which is Latin for “to pick or choose.”
Boyd wrote some excellent science fiction (under the name Boyd Ellanby) including two well-known books, 'Category Phoenix' in 1952 and 'Chain Reaction' in 1956. He also authored the Fundamentals of Immunology, one of the first Immunology textbooks for medical students.
By 1950 Boyd had determined about 20 genes for outward appearance traits that are recessive for typical Asians and/or Europeans but homozygous dominant for Africans. These recessive genes include the 6 to 8 genes for light skin color, the genes for blue eyes, gray eyes, blond hair, red hair, thin lips, straight hair, sacral spot, lack of facial hair (beards), narrow nose shape, and some others.
After the Second World War, William Boyd's baton as compiler of blood group data from around the world passed to the Englishman Arthur E. Mourant.
A native of Jersey in the Channel Islands, Mourant received a degree in geology, but as this was Depression-Era Britain, he was unable to find a job. His very strict Methodist upbringing had caused him considerable emotional unhappiness, which he hoped to resolve by becoming a psychoanalyst. To that end he decided to begin by first study medicine.
To avoid the German bombing raids on the capital, his medical school was moved from London to Cambridge, and it was here that he met Ronald Fisher, the most influential geneticist of his day. Fisher, a brilliant eccentric who we will meet again, had been working out the genetics of the new blood groups which were being discovered, and he had become fascinated by the particularly convoluted inheritance of one of them – the Rhesus blood group. Fisher found him a job at once, and the meticulous Mourant spent the rest of his working life compiling and interpreting the most detailed blood group frequency distribution maps ever produced. He never did become a psychoanalyst.
In the early 1600’s Pierre De Lancre, a French witch hunter, speculated why the Basque area seemed to harbor so many witches. He thought the problem stemmed from their great numbers in the various Jesuit missionaries, with all their evangelizing, which had affected them with demons from far-off places that they had carried back to Spain. De Lancre also thought that there early adoption of tobacco use may also be working on their minds. He held Basque women in special contempt, saying that they produced only undersized and cursed children who died.
As Mark Kurlansky recounts in The Basque History Of The World, this last accusation may have had a ring of truth to it, since Basques are renowned among anthropologists for their strikingly high percentage of individuals who have the Rhesus Negative (Rh-) blood type genotype (dd): 60% compared to an average of 16% for the rest of Europe. When a mother is Rh- and she gives birth to Rh+ children, an immune reaction can occur which gives rise to a hemolytic (“blood destroying”) anemia, and often would lead to the death of the child.
Mourant suggested that modern day Basques have other characteristics which may mark them as descendants of the late Paleolithic population of Western Europe: They share a skeletal resemblance to Cro-Magnon man and they are the only Western European people who do not speak a Indo-European language.