Chernobyl, Radiation, and What a Soy Bean Experiment Taught Us!

Chernobyl, Radiation, and What a Soy Bean Experiment Taught Us!

Listen to this article

They say curiosity killed the cat. But in this case, curiosity may very well have provided a very big hint as to compounds available in our food, that just may protect us from nuclear radiation.

A May 15, 2009 article shares how two scientists got curious as to how and why plants were thriving around Chernobyl 23 years after the nuclear power plant blew. They took soy bean plants and put some within 5 kilometers of the reactor, and some over 100 kilometers away, then when they went to seed, they took the beans and compared them.

“When compared with normal plants, beans from the high-radiation area had three times more cysteine synthase, a protein known to protect plants by binding heavy metals. They also had 32% more betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase, a compound found to reduce chromosomal abnormalities in human blood exposed to radiation.”

Cysteine, as we know, is a building-block of glutathione.  It is listed as both an amino acid and an antioxidant that helps detoxify from harmful toxins, radiation damage, etc. I hadn’t yet heard of betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase, so I had to look this up. A quick, “starter class” article on Wikipedia, with two reference sources, says:

“Betaine aldehyde is a substrate for choline dehydrogenase (mitochondrial).”

The glycine reference was of interest being as it too, is a building block of glutathione. 

Dr Axe, in a quote I had mentioned in my article on Choline, states:

“Choline helps in the process of methylation, which is used to create DNA, for nerve signaling, and for detoxification.”

In his book: An Overview of Betaine Supplementation, Sports Performance, and Body Composition, Jason M Cholewa writes:

“Betaine may also be obtained from dietary choline via choline dehydrogenase and betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase [8],”

In an article on Choline for Nutrition Metabolism, 2003, Martin Kohlmeier says:

beef“The breakdown of choline occurs mainly in liver and kidneys and depends on adequate supplies of riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

Choline in liver can be transported from cytosol into mitochondria and oxidized to betaine aldehyde (by choline dehydrogenase, EC1.1.99.1), and then to betaine (by betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase, EC1.2.1.8).”

Both the article on Choline and the book on sports performance, can be found on this page here.

Dr Axe says that Choline is a precursor to Betain and is synthesized in the body, specifically, the liver. He also says:

“It’s created by choline in combination with the amino acid glycine.”

He goes on to say that Betain

” aids in liver function, detoxification and cellular functioning within the body.”

His article was written in 2020.

Dr Axe gives a useful list of foods where Betain itself can be found:

Wheat Bran Quinoa Beets
Spinach Amaranth Rye
Kamut Bulgar Sweet Potatoe
Turkey Veal Beef

Research papers have been done on spinach, beets, and ginseng, and it was discovered for beets and spinach, that the plants created higher amounts of betain when grown in drought or higher saline-conditions.

One research paper on fragrant rice and using betain to enhance it, had a few observations in the introduction of note to our discussion:

“2-acetyl-1-pyrroline (2AP) has been found to be the most potent flavour compound that gives unique fragrance to jasmine and basmati rice3.”

“Betaine aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (BADH2) has been reported to play a role in the level of 2AP in rice4,5. The loss of BADH2 function accounts for the accumulation of 2AP resulting in an increase in rice fragrance5.”

“Generally, BADH2 converts GAB-ald into GABA, but the absence or nonfunction of BADH2 results in the accumulation of GAB-ald which is subsequently converted to 2AP.”

From the above quote, we get the fact that betain plays a role in fragrant rice, meaning yet another food should be added to the list Dr Axe shared earlier. Rice, to be exact.

The fact that betain converts one compound into GABA may explain why various whole foods contain GABA. Foods such as: mushrooms, rice, oats, peanuts and spinach. Although finding a list of foods that contain betain is a scattered endeavour, with Dr. Axe’s list being the longest so far, the list of foods containing GABA is much longer! It is a theory then, that perhaps those foods that give us plant-based GABA, may also contain betain in order for GABA to be produced in the plant in the first place. Due to the fascination of researchers with the fact that plants under stressful growing conditions tend to have more betain than those that have it easy, we may find an increase in betain levels as life gets harder for plants to grow in various areas around the world.

What should be noted about the increase in betain that the Chernobyl study found, is that as a plant, soy knows its primary reason to exist is offering food, it isn’t responsible for it’s modern GMO nature, but it knows it’s God-given genetic purpose, to provide nourishing food. Observations of wild plants growing where humans might need them most, has been a fascination of my daughter and I since we began foraging 8 years ago. Arnica tends to grow where you might twist an ankle or fall among rocky crags, and is useful for muscle and joint pain. Hmmm. . . Pineapple weed tends to grow along roadsides, where people are more likely to get motion sickness, and guess what? It can calm digestive upset! Dandelion and plantain tend to only grow in areas where people heavily frequent, such as yards, sidewalks, playing fields, etc. They are both nutritionally dense, contain many healing properties, and have clearly decided the best way to be helpful, is to grow where humans will spot them most frequently. Go out to a field where humans rarely go, and these plants will be difficult to find.


If plants by their nature, recognize what humans need and try to meet that need either by location or nutrition or both, then it would make sense that these soy plants would develop more betain, not merely to protect themselves, but knowing that in protecting themselves they will also protect those who eat them. If life is hard for them in a given area, it will be hard for those that rely on them, so try to boost benefit. People are still not used to the idea that plants have stationery sentience, but God spoke them into being to be food for bird, animal, and human life. They interact as such as well, with scientists amazed at the communication system mushrooms have, that trees have, that it seems the tree root system isn’t just for food and water, but other information as well. Plants respond to the world around them, not just seasonally, but in response to events too.

Another study was written by researchers fascinated with a tropical plant and how it grows in otherwise challenging seaside circumstances. They too, found higher levels of betain in the plants exposed to high winds and surfs compared to their freshwater cousins. The soy plants developed higher levels of betain to protect themselves against the cesium from the nuclear reactor. The authors of that report clearly didn’t know about the use of sunflowers that would later be used just a couple years after their report, to sequester radiation from the Fukushima reactor. Sunflowers are now included in various survival articles to help clean up an area after a radioactive event. They can’t be eaten due to soaking up the radiation, but they do absorb and clean it from the soil. The way the use of betain by the soy plants however, suggests protection against, not increased aborption of radiation, but the authors wondered if such research would reveal such plants to exist.

Yes, they not only exist, but eating betain-containing foods could benefit humans as well, for the exact same reason it protects the plants. If betain assists in the creation of GABA, and betain protects plants from radiation damage, and if betain in humans protects the blood from chromosomal changes due to radiation, the next logical question then, is this: Does GABA protect against radiation?

As GABA is considered an antioxidant, the answer is a possible “yes”. A 2017 study on rats found that:

“Gastric administration of GABA was found to offer an advantageous treatment against gamma irradiation-induced small intestine oxidative stress in rats, probably by utilizing ameliorative effects via its antioxidant and free radical-scavenging activities. Its mechanisms need to be further investigated.”

“GABA administration reduced the degenerative changes in the jejunal epithelial cells and significantly improved the survival of villi and crypts in gamma-irradiated rats. The injury of the Paneth cells and the distortion of goblet cells were mainly absent in GABA-treated rats. In addition, gastric administration of GABA after whole body gamma irradiation reduced the oxidative stress where GABA improved GSH-Px activity (Huang et al., 2011). Improvement may be due to increased GABA level which may promote the increase of glutamate level in the entire body. Glutamate, the raw material for glutathione synthesis in the antioxidation system, recover and maintain the reduced glutathione level, by this way improving the activity of GSH-Px in the antioxidation system (Chen, Tang, Sun, & Xie, 2013).”

There are studies out there that say GABA in humans and rats, gets negatively impacted by radiation, so the study suggesting it helped rats instead, may have been dose dependant to supplementation before, during and after radiation exposure. With that hypothesis out there, ensuring you are eating GABA-related foods, and foods that contain the building blocks for both GABA and glutathione, is important. Foods containing betain should now be added to that list. A review of information in my wholefood database, shows that the anti-radiation foods:

Barley Broccoli Brown Rice
Brussel Sprouts Buckwheat Cabbage
Cauliflowers Milk – Yogurt Oats

also contain GABA. Of those foods in this short list, rice shows up for betain, GABA, and anti-radiation! Needless to say, if you are able to eat rice, this is a very good survival food to have on hand!

Related Posts
Sharing is caring:

Leave a Reply