Rogue proteins target healthy cells and set the stage for disease. These bad actors include amyloids that are associated with Alzheimer’s and diabetes, prions associated with mad cow disease, and galectins associated with chronic inflammation that causes heart disease and accelerates aging.
Today we’ll talk about galectins, and what you do to tame them before they cause problems.
Galtectin-3: A Prime Source of Chronic Disease
Galectins are a family of about 15 proteins that have an affinity for sugars in the body. When proteins and sugar bind together, they cause tissue stickiness, or “glycosylation.” Over time, glycosylated tissue accumulates and disrupts body systems and networks that keep us healthy.
The rogue protein Galectin-3 is implicated in a wide range of diseases including cancer, HIV, autoimmune conditions, chronic inflammation, allergies, and accelerated aging.
No doubt about it, excess galectin-3 undermines health.
In cancer, Galectin-3 promotes tumor growth. It accelerates metastasis by acting as a sticky cell surface protein, allowing malignant cells to accumulate and then proliferate. As cancer cells multiply, they attract blood vessel formation in a process called “angiogenesis.” If left unchecked, cancer explodes throughout the body.
Galectin-3 plays an important role in heart failure. Heart failure is a condition caused by a combination of factors that result in the heart muscle overworking but underperforming. Eventually, even though it’s working harder and faster, the heart’s ability to pump blood to the far reaches of the body becomes less efficient. Without enough oxygen and nutrients in the blood, body organs suffer.
High galectin-3 levels are also associated with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This insidious disease is commonly found in obese people, type-2 diabetics, and those with high cholesterol. In the general population, about 20 percent of so-called healthy people have some degree of fatty liver. Even a small amount of fat accumulation in the liver reduces its detoxification function, and this loss of liver function may be associated with chronic fatigue.
Over time, liver tissue not only become less efficient, it hardens. This hardening leads to scar tissue formation called “cirrhosis.” Severe cirrhosis eventually leads to liver failure, which causes death.
In conventional medicine, there is no treatment for a fatty liver, and the only treatment for end-stage cirrhosis is liver transplant. Natural medicine, however, has effective methods for reducing fat deposits in the liver and for lowering galactic-3. The key is early detection of liver changes and to lower inflammation effectively.
Conditions Associated With High Galectin-3
- Heart Failure
- Fatty Liver Disease
- Elevated Cholesterol and LDL
- Accelerated Aging
Get Your Galectin-3 Tested
Galectin-3 can now be measured by a routine blood test. Researchers call it a “culprit biomarker.” Elevated levels suggest increased inflammation in the body. High levels are associated with heart failure and fatty liver disease, as well as high blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also an indirect marker of fibrosis, hardening of the tissue of the heart or liver, or both.
All major clinical laboratories like Labcorp test for Galectin-3. You can order tests on your own online from Direct Labs or LifeExtension. In our integrative medicine center, we use Cleveland HeartLab for advanced inflammation testing.
Relative Disease Risk of Galectin-3 Levels (ng/mL)
Too much galectin-3 circulating in the blood is responsible for many of the features of aging and degenerative disease. From congestive heart failure to aggressive cancers, elevated galectin-3 triggers a number of degenerative inflammatory processes throughout the body.
Not all patients with heart failure have high levels of galectin-3, but those with an elevated galectin-3 level have it worse. They are more prone to heart emergencies and have a greater risk of hospitalization than patients with low or normal levels of galectin-3.
We’ll need to test lots more patients and gather more data from larger studies in order to better learn what high galectins-3 levels mean for individual patients. For now, if your levels are high, it’s wise take natural medicines to lower galectins-3.
Targeting Galectin-3 with Modified Citrus Pectin
We’ve been using citrus pectin in naturopathic medicine for decades. Earlier research indicated positive results when used for breast and prostate cancer, but we didn’t know then how it worked.
Newer research suggests that advanced forms of modified citrus pectin (MCP), as well as other natural substances, can block the negative effects of galectin-3 by modifying immune system inflammatory reactions. Galectin-3 has a biological on-off switch that is influenced by certain carbohydrates found in foods, but the most researched is pectin.
Pectins have traditionally been used as thickening and stabilizing agents for stored foods like fruit and berry jams. However, scientists have found them to be much more than thickening agents.
But, it’s not whole pectin that targets galectin-3.
The pectin that works best appears to be derived from the white part under all types of citrus fruit peels. The pith is modified in the laboratory using an enzymatic and pH process to get the right molecular weight—the exact size of MCP to absorbed into the bloodstream and get into the right body cells.
Not all MCP products are equal. Most of the current research has been done with PectaSol-C. The recommended dosage is 5 grams daily mixed in water or diluted juice. Those with high galectin-3 levels and active disease have to take more. There are no adverse reactions associated with MCP, but since it is more than 50 percent fiber, large dosages may cause loose stools.
Modified citrus pectin has other benefits, including helping the body eliminate toxic metals like mercury, lead, and arsenic. It also supports cell health during aging, and modulates the body’s immune response.
Modified citrus pectin works synergistically with other natural agents, including curcumin, to modify inflammation and diindolylmethane (DIM) from broccoli to balance hormones. Medicinal mushrooms also combine well with modified citrus pectin to support healthy immune function.
Does Science Back Modified Citrus Pectin For Lowering Galectin-3?
Scientists know a lot about galectin-3. With hundreds of studies published over the last few decades, they’re finding increasing evidence of its role in chronic disease. There is good research on MCP, particularly with PectaSol-C, termed a galectin-3 inhibitor.
A review paper in 2009 called MCP a “one bullet, multiple target” compound for the treatment of cancer. Apparently, it hits different stages of metastasis, slowing down the spread of cancer.
The most current research looks so good that MCP should be considered as part of integrative therapy for cancer, chronic cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver disease. As an immune modulator and cell protectant, it may also be useful as part of a comprehensive anti-aging program. And, because it mobilizes heavy metals, it’s useful during chelation therapy to rid mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium from the body.
Your Call to Action
As part of your routine blood testing or comprehensive anti-aging panel, check your level of galectin-3. If your galectin-3 level is high, get started on a plan to lower this rogue protein. The best approach is to eat a plant-based diet. If your levels are very high, and you already have a cardiovascular condition, consider going vegetarian or vegan for three to five months. Include MCP in your nutritional supplement program.