Sulfite as a Disease Vector
Peak Blood Concentration of SO2 from
( One Micromolar Equals 1uM=64ug/L=320ug/5L )
||1.0 uM (micromolar)
|Typical Fastfood Lunch
|Bad Day in America
||3 ugly meals
A "Bad Day in America" would include 3 meals built from
the worst sulfited ingredients, like white grape juice, dried fruit,
fastfood fries, instant potatoes, wine vingear, pickled
peppers, molasses, sauerkraut, etc. Such a day would not occur very
often but is a possiblity. Since I get headaches at 1 uM, the table
above scares me to death. However, if you can drink a gallon of wine
and suffer no hangover, you may ignore it.
Asthma and Allergy
I've always been intrigued by the heavy correlation between sulfites and asthma. According to most sources, sulfites are the trigger in 5-10% of cases. And according to studies like Doai Memorial Hospital in Japan, for asthmatics with other triggers, 65% are overly sensitive to sulfites which cause symptoms seemingly unrelated to asthma. How is it possible that sulfite sensitivity and asthma are shared by up to 75% of patients? I hate to belabor the obvious but sulfites must be fundamentally involved at the very root of this disease. Note that the increased use of sulfites tracks the growth of asthma over the last 50 years. And, fast foods loaded with sulfites have increased asthmatic symptoms in teenagers the world over. Asthma is triggered by a wide range of insults. Allergic triggers include pollen, mold spores, dust mites, cockroach and pet proteins. Non-allergic causes include smoke, odors, cold air and weather, NSAID medications, exercise, hormones and sulfites. In my opinion, sulfite is the common denominator, acting as both a trigger and an enabler.
Consider the following results of biochemical research over the past 20 years at sulfite concentrations as low as 10uM.
(1) Martin Pelletier, "Activation of Human Epithelial
Lung Cells by the Pollutant Sodium Sulfite", Toxicological
September of 2002.
(2) H. Mitsuhashi, "Sulfite Is Released by Human Neutrophils in Response to Stimulation with Lipopolysaccharide", Journal of Leukocyte Biology, November of 1998.
(3) Pierrette Labbe, "Functional Responses of Human Neutrophils to Sodium Sulfite in Vitro", Experimental Toxicology, July of 2016.
Sulfite invokes an inflamatory response from
epithelial lung cells, causing the release of interleukin-8 which is a
signal that attracts neutrophil cells.(1) Neutrophils are the
type of white blood cells, soldiers in the body's immune system.
Neutrophils produce significant amounts of sulfite as a mediator of
immune response.(2) Sulfites and other chemicals are released to
invading germ cells and/or allergens. Neutrophils react to sulfite
within 5 minutes by generating superoxide anions, another tool of the
immune inflamatory response.(3) In summary, exposure to sulfite
lung cascade that initiates inflamation, sounds an alarm, attracts
white blood cells and primes the immune system
for allergic damage by any number of asthma triggers. And this cascade
applies to asthma as well as allergies, in general.
Great progress has been made in conditions affecting cardio-vascular health. Even so, stroke and heart attack stubbornly remain the primary causes of death in the western world. A major player in heart chemistry is the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO). And guess what, nitric oxide is affected by sulfite. Consider:
(4) Stephan B. Harvey, "Reaction of Nitric Oxide and
its Derivatives to Sulfites ...",
Biochemica et Biophysica Acta, 1995.
(5) Vikas Kapil, "Dietary Nitrate Provides Sustained Blood Pressure Lowering in Hypertensive Patients", Hypertension, February of 2015.
Nitric oxide and carriers like S-nitrosoglutathione inhibit blood platelet aggregation and regulate smooth muscle tone. This is one of the primary mechanisms of blood pressure control. In experiments with human platelet concentrate, nitric oxide was able to block dangerous aggregation caused by the injection of bovine thrombin, a clotting agent.(4) When sulfites were added, nitric oxide and S-nitrosoglutathione were suppressed and unable to stop the clotting. In other words, sulfite inhibited nitric oxide and caused a potential heart attack or stroke. The concentrations used in these experiments were chosen to meet the demands of measuring equipment and were higher than found in the human body. For instance, 4 uM of NO was required to prevent platelet aggregation. This in turn required 30 uM of sulfite to begin inhibition. According to Wikipedia, this much nitric oxide can lead to cell death. If you scale nitrix oxide down to under 1 uM, interference occurs at only 5 uM of sulfite and 30 uM would inhibit NO by 25%. From our food table, these concentrations are well within the range of ordinary living.
If you are concerned about cardio-vascular health, my advice: avoid sulfites. What else can you do? Well, you could visit your local doctor for tests, blood pressure drugs and cholesterol lowering statins. You could also try adding nitrate rich foods to your diet. These include arugula lettuce, spinach and beets. Nitric oxide is normally produced in humans by an enzyme, nitric oxide synthase (NOS), acting on the amino acid L-arginine. However, there is a recently discovered alternate pathway via nitrate. Nitric oxide has the chemical formula NO which means a nitrogen atom bound to a single oxygen. It is an ionized gas and is dissoved in blood plasma within the body. Nitrate has the chemical formula NO3 with three oxygen. Nitrite is a cousin with the formula NO2 and two oxygen. To efficiently produce nitric oxide from nitrate, an enzyme called nitrate reductase is required. Unfortunately, humans lack this enzyme. But bacteria in your mouth produce lots of nitrate reductase. When you eat lettuce, spinach or beets, nitrate is absorbed in the intestine and released into your saliva. Friendly bacteria convert the nitrate into nitrite which is then reabsorbed and stored within the body. As needed, the nitrite can be reduced to nitric oxide. Peak concentrations occur between 3 to 6 hours after eating.
How well does nitrate work at lowering blood pressure? Double blind English studies show typical drops of 7 points for systolic pressure and 4 points for dyasystolic.(5) To achieve this, 250 mL of beetroot juice was consumed daily. Being a natural guinea pig, I had to try it for myself. I bought an organic freeze dried product called "Beet, Beet, Beet" which is conveniently mixed with water. Now, how much to drink? Well, the English study used 250 mL which weighed about 250 grams. Looking at the label on a can of Safeway beets, this amount of beetroot contains 16 grams of carbohydrate. To get a similar amount of carbohydrate from the freeze dried powder, I used 2 scoops of 10 grams each. And sure enough, about 3 hours after drinking, I felt a slight pressure in my head as arteries relaxed and my pressure dropped about 10 points. Beet juice is also supposed to improve exercise performance, ED problems and varicose veins. If you want to try it, 300 grams (30 scoops) of "Beet, Beet, Beet" cost $30 on Amazon. You can also purchase a better known product, "Super Beets", for a little more money.
Autism is one of the mysteries of our age. Everyone
seems to have a different opinion about the root cause while its
prevalence continues to grow, affecting 1 in 70 children by some
estimates. Seventy years ago, autism was virtually unknown. It seems
obvious that something has happened during this period to provoke a
genetic suseptiblity that previously lay dormant. That's why some folks
have suggested vaccines which have grown in number over this time
period. Or, environmental toxins and food chemicals. Well, let me throw
my hat into the ring and suggest the explosion of sulfites. Consider
the following studies:
(6) P. B. Mills, "Urinary AASA Excretion is Elevated in
Patients with Molybdenum Cofactor Deficiency", Journal of Inherited
Metabolic Disease, March of 2012.
(7) J. B. Adams, "Abnormally High Plasma Levels of Vitamin B6 in Children with Autism Not Taking Supplements", Journal of Complementary Medicine, January of 2006.
(8) J. Yip, "Decreased GAD67 mRNA Levels in Cerebellar Purkinje Cells in Autism: Pathophysical Implications", Acta Neuropathol, 2007 .
(9) Xin Zhang, "A Mechanism of Sulfite Neurotoxicity: Direct Inhibition of Glutamate Dehydrogenase", Journal of Biological Chemistry, October of 2004.
As discussed in the previous webpage, excess sulfite in the body acts on an enzyme called alpha-AASA dehydrogenase resulting in an increase of alpha-AASA and a cousin called P6C. In turn, P6C traps the bioactive form of vitamin B6 which leads to B6 deficiency. In cases of severe sulfite intolerance, there is a near total shutdown of B6, resulting in a form of epilepsy.(6) The inhibition curve is rather steep, and by my interpolation, 25% of the enzyme is blocked at 33uM.A very high percentage (77%) of autistic children have plasma vitamin B6 levels higher by 2 standard deviations over non-autistic controls. This correlates with very low levels of the bioactive form of B6 called P5P or pyridoxal-5-phosphate. Apparently, the enzymes that convert ordinary B6 into its bioactive form function poorly in autistic children.(7) No other factor is so universally represented in the autistic population. We know that B6 plays a part in many chemical pathways affecting every aspect of health. Severe deficiencies can even cause epilepsy. Sulfite significantly depresses this vitamin at concentrations of 33 uM. If most autistic children have marginal levels of bioactive B6, then the injestion of sulfites could make it dangerous. This might be harmful during a stressor such as an illness or vaccination.
These are just a few examples of the hundeds of enzymes
affected by P5P and sulfite. What can be done? Reduce your sulfite load
and supplement with P5P. A combination of vitamin B6 and magnesium is
an early therapy suggested for autism. It was heavily promoted by Dr.
Bernard Rimland who established the Autism Research Institute in San
Deigo. He claimed strong results for large doses in the 400 mg range.
More recent studies have shown only mild improvements in double blind
trials. But note, all of these studies used the ordinary pyridoxine
form of vitamin B6, not bioactive P5P. Since 77% of autistic children
already have high levels of pyridoxine, giving more of it couldn't help
much. Just a few milligrams of P5P should prove more effective. Ask
your pediatrician. Run a P5P blood test. And stay as far away from
sulfites as you can manage. Please realize, I am not a doctor and this
is intended to enlighten but not to diagnose or prescribe.