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Is this enzyme in processed food responsible for gluten-sensitive diseases? Gluten may not be the problem

A new study links a food processing enzyme known as mTg, microbial transglutaminase, to Celiac disease and intestinal permeability, aka “leaky gut” conditions.

The authors looked at 69 studies concerning this food processing additive, and after analyzing and weighing the evidence they found a negative outcome in terms of intestinal health.

The review article published by the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics in December of 2018 is titled, Microbial Transglutaminase Is Immunogenic and Potentially Pathogenic in Pediatric Celiac Disease.

A Bit About Microbial Transglutaminase (mTg) 

After reviewing and summarizing several environmental situations, such as antibiotics, excessive alcohol consumption, stress, and other potential triggers for Celiac disease and intestinal permeability, the study’s authors paused to focus on mTg, an enzyme used more and more by the processed food industry. 

They compared the rise in Celiac disease and other small intestinal disorders such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) to the increased use of microbial transglutaminase (mTg) by the processed food industry to demonstrate an association that begs the question of causation.

Of course, the commonly considered trigger for these intestinal disorders is gluten, a protein substance found in grain-based foods that due to satisfying industrial bakery purposes has been artificially and naturally boosted by selective wheat breeding to increase wheat’s gluten content.

Gluten makes commercially baked goods more cohesive and easier to deal with by the food industry. And today’s hybrid wheat is much higher in gluten content than wheat 50 to 100 years ago.

Beyond that inherent gluten content, the rise of mTg used for processing foods to make them more palatable, improve texture, and increase shelf life has increased considerably, and it is something you won’t see on ingredient labels. 

As a processing enzyme, it’s technically not considered an ingredient, thus labeling it is not required. 

In his own article covering this review paper, Dr. Ronald Hoffman explains microbial transglutaminase (mTg) and its use with a final irony: 

It’s synthesized from bacteria, in huge “brew” vats. The resultant product is used in food processing to improve the texture of doughs. It’s also made from animal blood into so-called “meat glue”—hence its application to the manufacture of processed meat, fish balls, and imitation crab meat (surimi).

OK, you’ve gone gluten-free, and now eat gluten-free baked goods made from alternative flours like rice, corn, amaranth, or cassava. Guess what? They may be processed with mTg! 

In addition to enriching the texture, plasticity, and cohesiveness of dough from grain gluten sources, mTg manufacturers claim it is highly useful for gluten-free products as well. (Source)

The Review Paper’s Coverage of 69 Similar Studies from 2000 to 2018 Leads to Warnings

The authors, Matthias Torsen and Aaron Lerner, observed several pathogenic aspects among the studies they reviewed, leading them to place mTg as a primary partner for Celiac disease initiation and development.

From the review paper: 

Zooming on CD [Celiac disease] and the increased affinity of the mTg to gluten, the enzyme is increasingly used in the bakery industries, where it lowers the products calories, improves texture, elasticity and dough characteristics.

Summarizing the literature, an estimated daily intake of mTg used in the processed food products can range up to 15 mg where every kg of mTg processed product contains around 50–100 mg of mTg.

Finally, a direct positive correlation is found between the increased annual usage of industrial enzymes added to processed bakery products and the increase in CD frequency, in the last four decades. 

While asserting that correlation is not causation, the authors do point to mTg as an obvious suspect for intestinal disorders from dietary sources worthy of further investigation. 

The review authors analyzed several studies alluding to mTg and how it invades, cross-links proteins, and scrambles protein parts or undersized proteins that contain less than 50 amino acids called peptides. (Source)

The review authors point out that adding exogenous mTg compounds to our own transglutaminase, tissue transglutaminase (tTg), may overwhelm the digestive system to overly interact with gluten and create pathogenic compounds leading to Celiac disease.

Celiac disease is one of many autoimmune diseases where the immune system attacks one’s own organs and tissues and causes chronic inflammation. 

Summarizing the authors’ understanding of how mTg appears to be a major source of Celiac disease and other gut inflammatory conditions, it could be stated accurately that mTg compounds attach to gluten fragments causing the immune system to respond with antibodies.

But enough target confusion with the immune system from mTg leads to an antibody attack that mistakenly attacks one’s own tissue transglutaminase (tTg) and affects the surrounding tissue, in this case located in the small intestines.

According to review study co-author Aaron Lerner: 

Microbial transglutaminase [mTg] itself could also increase intestinal permeability by directly modifying proteins that hold together the intestinal barrier. (Source)

The review authors expressed an urgent need for labeling all processed food products that use mTg for processing foods to enhance texture, density, and create the illusion of a healthy whole food. They concluded their review with: 

There are published warnings, alarming the public on the potential danger of using or consuming this enzyme. Recent publications found mTg to be immunogenic in CD [Celiac disease] patients and its pathogenicity is continuously unraveled. The logical theoretical basis for mTg to be a new environmental factor in CD induction exists, however, causality should further be explored. 

Of course, the authors did discuss technical details of the myriad biochemical manifestations observed with mTg from the studies reviewed as well as their own a few short years ago. If you can understand a decent degree of detailed biochemical terminology, you can access the whole review paper here.

Other Problems with Gluten-based Products That May Have Nothing to do with Gluten Itself

There are other factors to consider regarding food sources containing gluten.

For example, there’s almost no press on other grain sources that are not hybrid for more gluten, like most modern varieties of wheat, and are minimally processed to exclude toxic residues such as alloxan, a by-product of chlorinating wheat’s endosperm after crushing it for instant whitening. Alloxan is used to induce diabetes in medical animals for testing.

As a byproduct, including alloxan on ingredient labels is not required. To avoid this diabetes-causing chemical, simply purchase bread or baked goods that specifically state “unbleached white flour.”

In order to make the flour dough easier to use by large scale commercial bakeries, they bromate the flour by adding potassium bromate. In addition to this, bromide is blocking or replacing iodine that your thyroid needs to fully function. It is carcinogenic.

Another unheralded feature of wheat and some oats is the procedure of desiccating wheat and oat grain crops with glyphosate-based Round-up weed killer in northern regions to hasten harvesting before snowfalls and freezing that would destroy the crop. 

Since those grains are not GMO “Round-up ready” and genetically modified to withstand its poison intended to destroy weeds, they die off to dry up prematurely to induce earlier harvest time.  

So now, most grains grown in the U.S. are grains that are saturated with the most toxic glyphosate mixture available. The crops sprayed literally suck up the poison to dry and die and remain within the plant. You can’t rinse it off.

And has we have previously published here at Health Impact News, even crops never sprayed with glyphosate-based weedkillers, such as USDA certified organic wheat, still can test positive for traces of glyphosate. As the most popular weedkiller in the world used in agriculture, it is most likely found in our water tables and rain water.

By Paul Fassa

(Source:; January 22, 2019;

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