Anti-Inflammatory Diet

All health care starts with diet. My recommendations for a healthy diet are here:
Anti-Inflammatory Diet and Lifestyle.
There are over 190 articles on diet, inflammation and disease on this blog
(find topics using search [upper left] or index [lower right]), and
more articles by Prof. Ayers on Suite101 .

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Metformin, Antibiotic with Autoimmune Side Effects

----The other 200 posts are here----
Major points linked in this article:
  • Metformin is commonly used in the treatment of diabetes.
  • Metformin is structurally and chemically related to arginine, guanine and Canavanine.
  • Side effects of Metformin include GI upset and autoimmune lupus (same with Canavanine.)
  • Metformin also kills bacteria, i.e. it is an antibiotic.
  • Many pharmaceuticals, e.g. statins, were first identified as antibiotics produced by fungi.
  • Antibiotics select for antibiotic resistance genes, i.e. essential bacterial genes that have mutated to no longer be inactivated by antibiotics.
  • New antibiotic resistance genes are combined with other resistance genes on multiple resistance plasmids that are transferred as a group.
  • Because of its wide use, resistance to Metformin (and statins) as an antibiotic probably already exists and has been incorporated into multiple drug resistance plasmids.
  • Many common pharmaceuticals are also antibiotics and probably select for multiple drug resistance.
  • A major contributor to multiple drug resistance, “super bugs”, and the rapid loss of efficacy of antibiotics is the over use of pharmaceuticals in general, in addition to the specific abuse of antibiotics designed to kill pathogens.
Metformin is a Good Anti-Diabetic, but...
Metformin is the treatment of choice for type 2 diabetes and yet, like many other common drugs, the full extent of its impact on the body (and the body’s essential microbiome of bacteria and fungi) has not been studied.  This article should not be seen as a criticism of the pharmacological efficacy of Metformin in lowering blood sugar.  The point here is that Metformin alters gut flora and its major pharmacological impact may result from alteration of the gut flora and not direct action on cells of body organs.  Metformin, because of its structure and size would be expected to act relatively indiscriminately in numerous cell functions, but I don't think that these interactions are as important as the impact on gut flora.  Metformin has all of the properties of an antibiotic selected to lower blood sugar and have limited side effects.  It would not be expected to cause a dramatic increase in autoimmunity, because diabetics already have elevated autoimmunity and associated deficiencies in gut flora.

Metformin is a Diguanide
 I previously explored the interesting properties of Metformin in my laboratory and through computer modeling experiments, and found it would react with many cellular enzymes and receptors similarly to the amino acid arginine.  This was no surprise, since the working end of arginine is a guanide and Metformin is a Siamese twin of guanides, i.e. a biguanide.  I might as well also say that another guanide, Canavanine, a toxic, antimicrobial phytoalexin in bean sprouts, has similar properties.

Phytochemicals as Antibiotics

I have studied (and written about) the natural plant antibiotics, phytoalexins, in legumes, and particularly in soy beans, so I would expect all of the chemicals, (a.k.a. phytochemicals or “antioxidants”) extracted from plants, e.g. alkaloids, polyphenols and essential oils, to kill bacteria and be toxic to human cells.  The selective advantage to plants in producing phytochemicals is the antibiotic activity of those chemicals.  Pathogens that have adapted for growth on one species of plant have resistance genes to that plant’s phytoalexins.  Thus, bacterial genes for resistance to the antibiotic activity of drugs derived from phytochemicals are common in nature and broad use of these drugs merely selects for the transfer of these genes to gut flora.
Canavanine and Lupus
What put together more pieces of the gut flora/antibiotic/autoimmune disease puzzle for me, was coming across Dr. Loren Cordain's recent reiteration of the toxicity of legumes and his singular example of Canavanine from alfalfa sprouts as a contributor to the autoimmune disease, lupus.  When I looked up the structure of Canavanine and found it to be a guanide, I immediately started making comparisons to Metformin and was amazed to see that these chemicals share the same list of side effects focused on the gut.  Moreover, lupus is also a side effect of both Metformin and Canavanine.  It was initially surprising, that a recent study suggests that the anti-diabetic action of Metformin may result indirectly from its antibiotic effects on gut flora.  I now expect that Canavanine causes lupus by killing or altering the metabolism of particular species of bacterial gut flora involved in the normal functions of the immune system, e.g. Tregs required for immune tolerance.  It is now a common observation that many pharmaceuticals act indirectly via their impact on gut flora, i.e. many pharmaceuticals are fundamentally antibiotics, and particular antibiotics can duplicate the activity of pharmaceuticals.
Pharmaceuticals Select for Multiple Antibiotic Resistance
I have one other concern about the wide use of drugs derived from phytoalexins.  Metformin can be considered one of those drugs, and just like phytoalexins, it is a potent antibiotic.  There is no difference between purified natural plant antibiotics/ phytoalexins/ polyphenols/ antioxidants and commercially synthesized antibiotics with respect to selecting for resistance.  I would expect that resistance to Metformin, as an antibiotic, has already developed in common gut flora and consequently, that multiple drug resistance plasmids from hospital pathogens now contain Metformin resistance.  Thus, I would also expect Metformin and many other pharmaceuticals to select for multiple antibiotic resistance. [An additional example is the antibiotic activity of NSAIDs on Helicobacter pylori.  I think that prevalent use of NSAIDs in many countries is responsible for the decline in H. pylori.]

Thursday, May 1, 2014

SweetMyx Taste Enhancers, Alapyridains?

---  Here are the other 200 blog posts ---
I was just reading announcements of new synthetic chemicals (SweetMyx) to enhance the taste and help reduce sugar and salt in "health foods".  The new taste enhancers have already been approved by industry organizations that designate the chemicals as GRAS, generally recognized as safe.  I, of course, was curious about how the SweetMyx chemicals made food taste sweeter with less added sugar.  Notice how convenient it is that the food industry has found a way to charge more for less sugar, just as labels have been changed to specifically designate "sugar added:".

Alapyridains are Taste Enhancers
I searched the chemical literature for new taste enhancers, since the chemical ingredients in SweetMyx are trade secrets and will not be disclosed on food labels.  It didn't take long to find that the likely suspects are called alapyridains.  This group of related chemicals are synthesized with a central pyridine ring familiar from the related cytosine and thymidine of nucleic acids, the plant alkaloid nicotine and the vitamin niacin.  A guanide group (half of the diabetes drug metformin, which is a biguanide) is added to make a salt enhancer, and a benzene ring is added to make a sugar enhancer.  Without these additions, the central structure inhibits the ability to taste the bitterness associated with "healthy plant antioxidants," phytochemicals and essential oils.

Will SweetMyx Just Tickle your Taste Buds?
The alapyridains that I expect to be in SweetMyx seem to be similar to common plant alkaloids, which are natural pesticides and antibiotics, i.e. phytoalexins.  So I would expect these compounds to also be antibiotics with unknown impact on our gut flora, nervous and immune systems, just like all of the medical antibiotics.  Based on the general putative structure of the taste enhancers and similarity to other molecules with known reactivities I would also expect these molecules to react with enzymes that bind sugars, e.g. glycosidases, or with hundreds of other proteins that bind to heparin, e.g. embryological growth factors, clotting factors, cytokines, amyloids, etc., etc., etc.  It would also be expected that these enhancers will encourage consumption without satiety and therefore, just as artificial sweeteners, contribute to further obesity.  In other words, these taste enhancers can be expected to have numerous, unpredictable medical and ecological side effects that will not be understood for decades.