The Exogenous Endotoxin Theory

The Exogenous Endotoxin Theory
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The endotoxemia (bacterial toxins in the bloodstream) that follows a meal of animal products and results in inflammation and stiffened arteries may come from the food itself, rather than from one’s own gut bacteria.

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To recap: until recently, the thinking was that the reason that a single meal of animal foods causes inflammation is because animal foods have saturated fat. The saturated fat causes the breakdown of our intestinal barrier, which could cause a “fat-induced translocation of small quantities of bacterial endotoxin from the gut” into our bloodstreams, which triggers the acute inflammatory reaction associated with Egg [McMuffin®] and Sausage McMuffin® consumption. So, “To date, it has been widely considered that the source of this circulating endotoxin is the resident intestinal microflora.”

Wait a second, though. What’s wrong with this picture? Look at the time scale. The rise of inflammation starts within just a few hours of ingestion. But where are our bacteria? Not in our small intestine, but 20 feet farther down, in our large intestine. That could take like eight hours for a McMuffin to get down there.

So, what’s going on? Where else could bacterial endotoxins be coming from, if not the bacteria in our gut? Maybe the endotoxins are coming from the food itself.  This is the new study that changed everything. For the first time ever, they “aimed to determine whether common foodstuffs may contain appreciable quantities of endotoxin.” “Forty extracts were therefore prepared from twenty-seven foodstuffs common to the Western diet, and the capacity of each to induce the secretion of [inflammatory signals from human white blood cells] was measured…”

They found whopping doses of endotoxin equivalents in some pork, poultry, dairy, and chocolate products. What’s with the chocolate? Well, the first step in chocolate-making is bacterial fermentation of the beans. But thankfully, the phytonutrients, the plant-based nutrients, outweigh the effect of the bacteria, and decrease inflammation overall. The same cannot be said for animal products, though.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to SuperManu via Wikimedia Commons and jeffreyw via flickr

To recap: until recently, the thinking was that the reason that a single meal of animal foods causes inflammation is because animal foods have saturated fat. The saturated fat causes the breakdown of our intestinal barrier, which could cause a “fat-induced translocation of small quantities of bacterial endotoxin from the gut” into our bloodstreams, which triggers the acute inflammatory reaction associated with Egg [McMuffin®] and Sausage McMuffin® consumption. So, “To date, it has been widely considered that the source of this circulating endotoxin is the resident intestinal microflora.”

Wait a second, though. What’s wrong with this picture? Look at the time scale. The rise of inflammation starts within just a few hours of ingestion. But where are our bacteria? Not in our small intestine, but 20 feet farther down, in our large intestine. That could take like eight hours for a McMuffin to get down there.

So, what’s going on? Where else could bacterial endotoxins be coming from, if not the bacteria in our gut? Maybe the endotoxins are coming from the food itself.  This is the new study that changed everything. For the first time ever, they “aimed to determine whether common foodstuffs may contain appreciable quantities of endotoxin.” “Forty extracts were therefore prepared from twenty-seven foodstuffs common to the Western diet, and the capacity of each to induce the secretion of [inflammatory signals from human white blood cells] was measured…”

They found whopping doses of endotoxin equivalents in some pork, poultry, dairy, and chocolate products. What’s with the chocolate? Well, the first step in chocolate-making is bacterial fermentation of the beans. But thankfully, the phytonutrients, the plant-based nutrients, outweigh the effect of the bacteria, and decrease inflammation overall. The same cannot be said for animal products, though.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by Serena

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Image thanks to SuperManu via Wikimedia Commons and jeffreyw via flickr

Doctor's Note

This is the second of a three-part video series exploring the mechanism behind the spike of inflammation that follows within hours of a meal containing animal products. For part one, see The Leaky Gut Theory of Why Animal Products Cause Inflammation. Food Mass Transit details intestinal transit time, and for more on chocolate, see Update on ChocolateHealthiest Chocolate Fix; and A Treatment for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The chocolate thing reminds me of the nitrate story. When accompanied by phytonutrients, what could have an adverse effect ends up being beneficial; see Are Nitrates Pollutants or Nutrients? To close up this fascinating topic, I’ll explore the role fat may play in this endotoxic reaction to meat and other animal products in Dead Meat Bacteria Endotoxemia

For more context, check out my associated blog posts: How Does Meat Cause Inflammation?The True Shelf Life of Cooking OilsTop 10 Most Popular Videos of the YearLead Poisoning Risk From VenisonPlant-Based Diets for Fibromyalgia; and Mushrooms and Immunity.

2019 Update – I just did a new video on endotoxins: Are Pre-Cut Vegetables Just as Healthy? 

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