Is A Common Food Ingredient A Cause of Autoimmune Disease?
Research continues to show it might be a trigger
Is meat glue, a common food ingredient, a cause of autoimmune disease? There are likely many reasons autoimmune diseases get “triggered”. Research in 2020 continues to show this may be one of the reasons.
Research has raised concerns regarding a commonly used food ingredient that may trigger autoimmune disease in genetically susceptible people. MTG, otherwise known as “meat glue”, was found to activate celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. Autoimmune diseases are often accompanied by an increase in gut permeability / ” a leaky gut”. This leaky gut allows proteins to pass through the gut wall and trigger immune reactions. Could MTG trigger other autoimmune conditions as well by causing a leaky gut?
What is Meat Glue?
Microbial transglutaminase (MTG) a.k.a ” meat glue ” is an enzyme found naturally in humans, animals, and plants. It is used as a type of “glue” in products because it binds proteins together and improves consistency and texture. It is used in meat products but is also widely used in other food products besides meat. This includes dairy products, baked goods, desserts, and low-calorie foods. It improves characteristics such as texture, taste, and shelf life of foods. On labels, it might be listed by its complete name, TG Enzyme, or TGP enzyme. For more information on MTG read the USDA’s fact sheet here.
Autoimmune Disease Risk
The information in recent research is alarming. This “natural” food enzyme is causing a leaky gut and triggering immune reactions. What does this mean for people at risk of autoimmune diseases?
- Could other food ingredients trigger autoimmune disorders?
- Because MTG / meat glue can also be produced by our gut bacteria, can an imbalance in gut bacteria produce increased MTG and trigger autoimmunity?
- Could this be one explanation for the rise in autoimmune diseases?
Autoimmune DIseases Are On The Rise
The rate of autoimmune diseases is increasing. Multiple factors have been discussed as possible reasons. MTG is just one potential reason, but one that we can somewhat control.
Meat Glue/MTG and Gluten
MTG / meat glue is attracted to and binds gluten in food. When the food is consumed, a compound is created which makes the intestine “leaky”. The MTG-gluten compound sneaks in through the leaky gut and triggers an immune response. This immune response makes the body react to gluten/wheat in individuals who are genetically susceptible to celiac disease. This means it may activate celiac disease.
How do you know if you are susceptible to celiac disease if you haven’t had a genetic test? You don’t.
Celiac Disease Is An Autoimmune Disease
Celiac Disease is one type of autoimmune disease. In people with celiac disease, gluten triggers the immune system to attack the gut. It occurs in 1/100 people, is lifelong and can cause many health problems long term if undiagnosed or untreated. Celiac disease is on the rise. About forty percent of the population carries a gene that puts them at risk for celiac disease. Of that 40%, about 5% will go on to develop active celiac disease. The problem is, we don’t know who will be in that 5%. Could MTG put them there?
How To Avoid Meat Glue
How do you avoid meat glue / MTG if it is everywhere? Here are a few tips.
- Avoid/Limit fast Food
- Avoid/Limit formed meats such as chicken nuggets
- Read labels for “TG Enzyme or “TGP Enzyme”
- Avoid or limit imitation seafood, manufactured sausages, hot dogs, bacon crumbles
- Choose meat and poultry in its natural form
- Eat a whole foods diet, minimal to no processed foods
- Cook at home
- Buy organic meats, vegetables, foods, and products.
I am glad to see more research is being done to further clarify the risks associated with this common food ingredient. Read labels and eat real food!
Processed Food Additive Microbial Transglutaminase and Its Cross-Linked Gliadin Complexes Are Potential Public Health Concerns in Celiac Disease Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Feb 8;21(3)
Microbial transglutaminase: A new potential player in celiac disease Clin Immunol. 2019 Feb;199:37-43
Microbial transglutaminase should be considered as an environmental inducer of celiac disease World J Clin Cases. 2019 Nov 26;7(22):3912-3914
Microbial Transglutaminase Is Immunogenic and Potentially Pathogenic in Pediatric Celiac Disease. Front Pediatr. 2018 Dec 11;6:389
Changes in intestinal tight junction permeability associated with industrial food additives explain the rising incidence of autoimmune disease.Autoimmun Rev. 2015 Jun;14(6):479-89.
THIS ARTICLE IS COPYRIGHTED BY AMY BURKHART, MD, RD.
Dr. Amy Burkhart is a doctor (M.D.), Registered Dietitian, R.D., and fellowship-trained in integrative medicine. She specializes in treating chronic digestive disorders from an integrative/functional medicine perspective.