Blood Type, Nutrition and Disease
John A. Casey, M.D., C.C.N.
NYS Society of Medical Technologists
The International Society of Blood Transfusion recognizes at least twenty two different blood groups systems. Most systems contain several blood types. Many of these are largely ignored except for transplant compatibility. The various ABO, Rh. Kell (K) and MNSs blood types are used extensively to type and crossmatch blood for transfusions and the exclusion of paternity. There is strong but often overlooked evidence to support a connection between blood type, nutrition and disease.
RELATIONSHIP TO DISEASE
More than one hundred diseases are known to be blood type related. At least sixty of these are related to the ABO blood types. There is a preponderance of persons with type A blood in thirty three diseases including cardiovascular disease. bronchitis and several types of cancer. Type B is associated with twenty one diseases including UTI, bone cancer and multiple sclerosis. Type AB blood has no specific claim to fame. but shares seventeen diseases with either type A (examplebronchitis.. cardiovascular disease) or type B (example: cystitis. pyelonephritis). Persons with type O blood are predisposed to thirty two diseases including allergy, peptic ulcer, toxemia of pregnancy and disorders of the blood including hemorrhagic disease and leukemia.
Most of the other blood group systems have some relationship to disease. The association between the Rh blood type and hemolytic disease of the newborn is well known. Several other diseases are associated with Rhstatus, these include cancer of the urinary tract, mumps and sarcoidosis. Kell negative (K-) individuals are predisposed to auto immune hemolytic anemia as a result of transfusion or pregnancy. Kell status may also indicate a tendency towards certain bacterial infections. Lewis nonsecretors. Le (a+b-) are predisposed to alcoholism. meningitis and yeast infections. Secretors.. Le (a- b+) tend to have a greater than predicted frequency of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and prostate cancer. Persons with blood types MN and NN tend to suffer from hypertension. hyperlipidemia and ankylosing spondylitis. The P blood group system is associated with helminth parasites and early spontaneous abortion. Persons who are thiffy positive, (fya fya) or (fya fyb) have little
RELATIONSHIP TO NUTRITION
Some plants and animals are poisonous when eaten. This is often due to their content of substances which agglutinate blood. The term "lectin" was introduced in 1954 by Boyd and Shapleigh to indicate substances of non immune origin which have the ability to agglutinate blood. Researchers have shown that some lectins are blood type specific. This resulted in their usage as alternatives to polyclonal antibodies in blood group serology . However very few of us made the connection between using lectins in the lab to agglutinate blood and going home to have them for dinner.
Lectins bind to cell surface carbohydrates which allow them to interact with all body cells as well as a large number of enzymes and plasma proteins. This gives them a dazzling array of unique biochemic, physiologic and immunologic characteristics including but not limited to the following: The ability to act as both anitgens and antibodies. Mitogenisis, the ability to stimulate mitosis in lymphocytes (beans, pokeweed), antimitogenisis (tomato), stimulation of the growth of cancer cells (beans), inhibition of cancer sells (soybeans, peanuts), the ability to imitate insulin (jack beans, wheat germ) and the stimulation of excess mucous secretion (jack beans). In the worst case scenario, certain lectins such as Navy bean lectin can result in death if consumed raw. It should be noted that some lectins have the ability to resist both cooking and the digestive process. The lectinologist D.J. Freed, was able to recover intact lectins from stool samples and freshly baked bread. Some lectins such as banana lectin are actually enhanced by heating!
In 1980 Nachbar and Oppenheimer at New York University found that the "edible parts of 29 of 88 foods tested, including fresh fruits, roasted nuts, and processed cereal were found to possess significant lectin activity." This study showed that string beans and lima beans agglutinated type A cells. Type B cells were agglutinated by pomegranates and cocoa. Both types A and B (AB) cells were agglutinated by field beans while sunflower seeds agglutinated Type 0 cells. Many foods such as tomato, potato, lentils, apples, bananas and coconut were shown to agglutinate all ABO blood types. On the other hand, certain foods such as carrots and pumpkin did not show any lectin activity against ABO types. These foods are not necessarily inert since they may contain lectins specific for other blood group systems. In a movement popularized by Peter D'Adamo, N.D.. many practitioners have adopted a strategy of customizing patient's diets to be harmonious with their respective blood types and/or to maximize desirable effects of specific lectins. So far, this has yielded good results.
Until more research is done we are left with the question: How many of the diseases which we face are impacted upon by food lectins that disrupt our biochemistry or alter other physiologic parameters?
- American Association of Blood Banks. Technical Manual, 10th ed. 1990
- Boyd, W.C., Shapleigh, E., Diagnosis of subgroup" of blood groups A and AB by use of plant agglutinins. Science 119, 419, 1954.
- D'Adamo, P. Eat Right 4 Your Type G.P. Putnam's Sons, New York. 1996
- Freed, D.L., "Dietary lectins and disease." Food Allergy and Intolerance, 1987: 375400.
- Nachbar, M., Oppenheimer J.D., Lectins in the United States diet. American J. of Clinical Nutrition 33: Nov 1990. pp 2338 - 2345