Low-Hanging Fruit: Ergothioneine

Ergothioneine is an amino acid, one that is made by fungi and some bacteria. Humans can’t make it, but it is present in some tissues at fairly high level, and there is a specific transporter (SLC22A4). A more-active form of that gene has been favored by positive selection in Europeans: this could be related to a mostly-wheat diet, since wheat has very little ergothioneine.

A better ergothioneine transporter increases fitness by a few percent, else we wouldn’t have noticed the selection pressure. If logic worked in in biology, we could conclude that ergothioneine is good for you – a vitamin, even though we don’t understand what it does, or the negative consequences of a deficiency. At least some people must have such a deficiency – maybe we should look at people with knocked-out SLC22A4? And if we can’t find any, that says something, eh?

of course, anyone that decided to work this problem – one that we know for sure is relevant to human health – risks the ignominious fate of Adolf Windaus and Albert Szent-Györgyi.

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24 Responses to Low-Hanging Fruit: Ergothioneine

  1. Bob says:

    A more-active form of that gene has been favored by positive selection in Europeans: this could be related to a mostly-wheat diet, since wheat has very little ergothioniene.

    The “paleo diet” has been fashionable recently, and it consists of minimizing or avoiding carbohydrate, especially wheat, consumption. The reasoning is that people aren’t or are less well adapted to wheat and other carbohydrates. Is this accurate, or are people of European descent well adapted to wheat and other carbs?

  2. Space Ghost says:

    You’ve been on fire lately – that Hive Mind broadside and then this classic bit of esotericism. It’s what keeps me coming back. Where is that donate link?

    BTW there is a typo – it’s spelled “ergothioneine”

  3. JayMan says:

    “A more-active form of that gene has been favored by positive selection in Europeans: this could be related to a mostly-wheat diet, since wheat has very little ergothioniene.”

    I wonder if that map looks anything like this.

  4. Weltanschauung says:

    Both Adolf Windaus and Albert Szent-Györgyi won Nobel Prizes for finding out things about vitamins and lived to ripe old ages. What ignominious fate are you hinting at?

    • Ziel says:

      I assumed he was being ironic – I.e. an easy Nobel pickup awaits whoever figures this out.

      • IC says:

        There were several Nobel laureates on our campus during my graduate school years. Later other laureates during my medical residency years on different campus. We knew how they were comparing to other faculties, especially during seminars. Maybe familarity breeds contempts. My graduate advicers and other proffessors often made fun of these laureates. As any intellectuals, they did not exhibit any extraodinary capability when you met them in person. Yet, any stupid mistake they made would be like joke for their reputation. But due to their glory, they did make a lot of recless remarks or comments during conferences. Most of them also were no longer productive after awards. All these were called “post-Nobel syndrome” or “Nobel disease”

        But Nobel laureates might be mystified by general public, almost like some kind of Gods.

        • MawBTS says:

          All these were called “post-Nobel syndrome” or “Nobel disease”

          Yes, compare with Hollywood’s “Post-Oscar curse”, where Ridley Scott follows up Alien and Blade Runner with Legend.

  5. A Physics professor invited me to give a talk to his university department. I protested that I had nothing to contribute, and to delay things asked to see the list of previous speakers, which turned out to be studded with Nobel Laureates. I demurred, but he persisted, so I went there to give a talk about intelligence research. Over a pre-lecture lunch chat before my talk he said that when he collected Laureates from the airport they were always very nervous about giving their lectures. They feared that, as they explained their work, the audience would realize that they had been given their prizes by mistake. Sometimes true.

  6. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    OT, but we are likely going to see more claims that epigenetics will cure the heads of underperforming groups:



    The scientists did notice, however that the anatomical changes were only temporary. Weeks after the planaria completed regeneration to the other species’ head shapes, the worms once again began remodeling and re-acquired their original head morphology. Dr. Levin and his team are currently investigating how the reversion back to the original phenotype is occurring.

  7. IC says:

    Be grateful for anything in your life, you will be happy. Be entitled for anything in the world, resentment and hatred will come.

    Happy thanksgiving everyone!

  8. anon says:

    Hey, HBD types, i started a white student union at my uni for lols, and now it’s goign viral.
    Anyways, an anto prof responded to one of my posts with this:

    ” As a professor at Macquarie University – Faculty of Arts who teaches specifically on this topic, I challenge you to find one peer reviewed scientific paper, in a reputable, non-racist journal, that ties any gene variants to poverty of Aboriginal people. One. Paper. In contrast, I can find you scores that discuss the roots of Aboriginal impoverishment in colonialism, alcohol use, inequality in education, ongoing racism, entrenched lack of services in remote communities, intergenerational trauma, decades (or centuries) of racist government policy.
    The concept of ‘race’ is itself incoherent when applied to humans, a basic fact that students taking a 100-level course in human biology would be able to tell you.”

    His argument sucks, and i could make him look like a fool, but i want to really get him good, so could i borrow some of your IQ points to reall get him?


    • anon says:

      I responded to the anthro prof with this:

      “Your argument is a straw-man because we never claimed that there were know gene variants . At this point in time, it is only speculation. But speculation is essential to scientific progress, as Charles Darwin affirmed in a letter to the naturalist Alfred Wallace: “I am a firm believer, that without speculation there is no good & original observation.” Our speculation has a strong basis because it is know that Aborigines are (a) less intelligent than Caucasians1 on average (for whatever reason(s)) and (b) that aborigines have, on average, smaller brains than Caucasians2. Moreover, when we observe other groups who have been victimised by racism, for example Ashekanzi jews and North-East Asians, we do not see the predicted impoverishment or low test scores. On the contrary, Ashkenazim and North-east Asians fare better than their oppressors! Race is a social construct but so is species 3 and, for example, Newtonian Mechanics. That does not mean that species and Newtonian Mechanics tell us nothing about nature. On the contrary, they tell us a lot about nature. It is always the case that two random Caucaisns are more similar to one another, genetically, than a random Asian and a random European. *4. Racial differences exist. *1[http://www.andrewleigh.org/pdf/CognitiveGaps.pdf ], *2[http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1261675/], *3[http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/species/],4[http://www.genomebiology.com/2002/3/7/comment/2007]
      Like · Reply · 1 hr · Edited”

      He responded to me by telling me that brain size does not correlate with intelligence (LOL). You can imageine that i made mince meat of that. He has failed to respond to me as of now even though he is active in the thread. What an idiot.

      • Tim says:

        Sounds like a waste of time to me. What is the point? So you can look smart and get your name in an article or two?

        • Ilya says:

          @Tim: what’s the point of doing anything in life? After all, we’re universally destined to die, right? And truth doesn’t matter, because it’s all about staying a part of the community, to survive, whatever it takes, even if said “community” is turning into loose crap, a de facto Idiocracy, slowly but surely… right?

          Heck, there are occasionally useful myths (the ones that anthropomorphize God, for instance). But then there are others that aren’t (diversity-for-the-sake-of-diversity, at expense of law and sane social policy, for example). The first type of myth helps a society, the other type only ruins. Someone trying to stand up to the latter kind is not to be looked down upon, especially, in our time of masochistic madness, the one that usurps “progress” and poses under the moniker to achieve the exact opposite.

          @anon: Keep up the good work. This blog attracts people who want to find out and state things as they are — and many people would be on your side. More importantly, you live in a Western European derived state, and ought to be free to exercise freedom of political expression, even if said expression is BS (which it is definitely not, in your case!). Maybe it is “freedom of expression” that is BS? Well, if so, let us find out by having this probable lie unravel.

          I did check https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_of_speech_by_country#Australia, and it appears that Australia is not as strong with regards to protecting freedom of expression as the US. You may have more saintly-sounding evildoers ahead of you.

        • Ilya says:

          @anon: the only problem of note is that your so-called “brothers” (Whites/people of European extraction) never had a strong culture of cohesion, unless they were part of a universal religion (Christianity, in overwhelming amount of instances).

          Most of history of Europeans, in terms of tribal identity, is defined by living as part of a village and collectively hating on the village less than 30 km away, their genetic relatives, by making alliances with a much less related village 50 km away.

          In other words, these “brothers” of yours would be more than happy to throw you under the bus, if it seems even mildly profitable that way (even the entertainment value of it is still non-zero for them, especially if they can parade it).

          Although Christianity served as an ideology/justification to form alliances and large-scale confederacies, the problem with Christianity is that it has never been a stable enough framework, always mutating towards liberalism. It also always relied on recruitment/conversion of new peoples. It has now reached a point where it is both liberal to the point of absurdity and there is almost no people left in the world to convert to it in the civilizable world, obviously discounting Oceanians and their ilk, that are not part of some other sizable universal religion.

          Either way, you’ve got a problem: your “white brothers” don’t have a good framework to be cohesive about, and “white brotherism” is not a strong enough framework to rally around, unless there is an EMP pulse that renders high-tech society nil and void, and you find yourself stranded among strangers, and have to resort to proximate markers (such as face structure and skin color) to pick your likely allies in defending against a zombie apocalypse.

          A good framework needs to rely on much more than a couple of visible phenotypic traits of individuals, in order for said individuals who adhere to it, to have a long-term viable society.

          I don’t know, maybe someday people who you think are/should be your brothers will become your brothers — or, at least, some of them. However, the way things are, de facto, are not conducive to that, unless something really bad happens. Again though: genetic proximity is not the same as cohesion. There is no such thing as “genetic interest,” and this blog has discussed this a few times, often in a heated manner.

          Having said all of the above, I still think that there should be nothing fundamentally wrong in any group openly congregating based on whatever capricious criteria they deem OK, if other groups are capriciously granted such privilege by the government/powers-that-be. If there is no incitement for violence, it should be legal and you ought not suffer intimidation from the rulers/admins.

    • Boris Bartlog says:

      A problem you would run in to is that there’s been a lot more work done on white, black, and east asian data than on the aboriginals in Australia. For example, here’s a paper that would be kind of useful in this context, except that the peoples it covers don’t include the aborigines (which is unfortunate): https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/ase/121/3/121_130731/_html

      But as you can see it does at least tie a specific variant to cognitive outcomes (there are other related papers that show changes in brain structure for this variant, too, so you can make a good case for a mechanism rather than a spurious correlation).

      More generally, anyone who asserts that there isn’t even one paper supporting position XYZ is a fucking noob who has no idea just how messy science is. Or more likely, they’re engaging in cheap rhetoric. I can find you a dozen papers that support homeopathy; it’s just that when you look at a broad meta-analysis and notice that the effects are all clumped in the smaller, less powerful studies, that you can see that it’s a mirage.

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