Why The Fear Of Lectins Is Not Worth It!

Foods containing lectins have been labeled as “toxic” or dangerous lately. Nutritionist Dr. T Colin Campbell.

Why lectins are not dangerous

dr T. Colin Campbell, nutritionist, biochemist, and university professor emeritus, has an interesting statement on his website about the fear of lectins that are currently circulating, and the corresponding book The Plant Paradox (German edition: “Böses Gemüse”) by Dr. medical Steven Gundry, which we would like to reproduce in excerpts and analogously below.

Dr. Gundry’s book states that lectins, or foods containing lectins, are the cause of most, if not all, diseases. If you follow Gundry’s lectin-free diet, you will be cured of these very diseases. Gundry’s book is thick and contains several hundred pages with sources. Still, a thick book and the fact that the author is a Dr. medical is, obviously by no means a guarantee that the content is actually true or must apply to every person.

Are lectins responsible for all diseases?

dr T. Colin Campbell: Dr. Gundry writes on his website:

“I think I’ve discovered some unconventional facts about human nutrition.”
Unconventional? As a matter of fact. facts? Let’s wait and see.

The Plant Paradox is written by an author who never ceases to draw our attention to his great medical and research career. He says he’s “humbly found the root cause of most health problems” and that “it’s all based on extensive research, including my own studies, published in scientific medical journals that just nobody has summarized before.”

He continues: “Many so-called health professionals make it easy on themselves, blaming personal laziness and addiction to fast food for most physical and mental ailments. […] Unfortunately, they are often wrong about this. […] The root cause of ill health lies so hidden elsewhere that it has been overlooked: lectins.”

What are lectins?

It sounds like Dr. Gundry has a great secret. And many people will breathe a sigh of relief at the title of the book, after all, they have never liked vegetables, let alone whole grains.

( Center of Health: Don’t get too excited, though, because Gundry prohibits more than meets the eye. The small amounts of animal products he allows must meet very specific criteria, and many plant-based foods must meet very specific criteria way to be prepared.)

So what’s wrong with the veggies that Gundry considers “evil”? It’s not just the well-known gluten in grains that he calls problematic, it’s also the lectins (which he thinks gluten is one of).

According to Gundry, lectins are “a group of highly toxic plant compounds found not only in grains such as wheat but also in many gluten-free foods such as some fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and conventional dairy products and thus in foods that many people consider as assess healthily.

However, as soon as you eat them, says Gundry, they begin to wage war in your body, causing inflammation that in turn can lead to obesity and serious health problems.

Which diseases can be caused by lectins?

dr Gundry’s book lists a variety of illnesses that his patients are said to have resolved after following his lectin-free diet program. These include autoimmune diseases such as B. lupus erythematosus and psoriasis, but also cancer, heart disease, obesity, mental disorders, neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and dementia, and neurological problems. B. cramps, tingling, and numbness.

Why lectins can’t be harmful – at least not for everyone

Gundry’s findings are exactly the opposite of what has long been known from observational studies in the field of nutrition and health: people who eat a typical Western diet are already eating a diet low in lectins: they eat meat, more fat and Sugar, rather reluctantly vegetables and almost no beans and no whole grains.

(Center of Health: And it is exactly these people who are mostly overweight and chronically ill. )

A lifestyle commonality among long-lived peoples is the consumption of legumes (and Americans, by and large, rarely eat legumes). The consumption of beans can have an extremely positive effect on many ailments, such as B. in diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and overweight.

dr Gundry allows beans and legumes, but only if they are cooked in the pressure cooker, as this would eliminate lectins. Research shows, however, that legumes do not have to be pressure-cooked to enjoy their health benefits.

Eating more whole grains—compared to consuming fewer whole grains—is also associated with health benefits. You are less likely to catch the chronic disease, live longer, and reduce your risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.

Where are the anti-lectin studies?

If someone now has such unusual findings as Dr. Gundry published, he would also have to present concrete scientific evidence for it. It would be nice if the studies he announced, which are said to have been published in specialist journals and are intended to support his claims, actually existed somewhere to read, which is not the case.

So we (Dr. T. Colin Campbell and colleagues) looked at the sources that Gundry cites in his book.

Incorrect or inappropriate sources

One of Gundry’s sources of his achievements, which is said to have been published in a professional journal, is nothing more than an abstract (summary) that appeared in a newspaper supplement to a poster (for a conference). While that’s all well and good, it’s a long way from a clinical study in a peer-reviewed journal. In other words: There is no concrete publication on Gundry’s methods, subjects, results, etc.

In addition, he gives sources for statements that do not support these statements at all, as the following examples show:

  • P4 – Gundry says egg yolks and seafood dramatically lower cholesterol. His source, however, explains that some types of seafood lead to lower cholesterol levels than other animal foods. The study mentioned says nothing about egg yolk.
  • P. 21 – “The longer you eat lectins, the more likely it is that your intestinal flora will produce bacteria that inactivate these lectins.” That sounds logical and maybe it is actually the case. However, the source given shows that a gluten-free diet can lead to an intestinal flora disorder (less useful, more harmful intestinal bacteria) – which has nothing in common with the original statement, on the contrary, leads to the assumption that this negative intestinal flora change is the result of a low-fiber and therefore low-whole-grain diet. Finally, conventional gluten-free diets often contain plenty of (gluten-free) white flour products (pasta, bread, pastries, etc.). But that would be rather disadvantageous for Gundry’s concept.
  • P. 24 – “Some lectins sever the connections between your cells.” The study he referred to does not contain the word “lectin” anywhere.
  • P. 38 – “Avoiding lectins may cure autoimmune diseases, as reported in the scientific literature.” The source is a conference summary not available online. Is this “scientific literature”?
  • P. 43 – After a long list of really scary effects of WGA (Wheat Germ Agglutinin – wheat-typical lectin) without any source, finally a footnote appears at the end – where it is claimed that WGA contributes to the development of kidney inflammation. However, the cited study only says that some lectins have coloring properties on kidney tissue. Nothing is said about kidney inflammation in this study. It seems the author searched for the words “lectin” and “kidney” and then just blindly picked some study from the search results to include in his source directory.
  • P. 73 – In another statement, Gundry claims that germ-free mice (laboratory mice without gut flora) are smaller and have a shorter lifespan, which is not very surprising since gut flora is vital. But Gundry cites a study as evidence for this statement, which showed that a low-fiber diet (and Gundry then assumes that it is also a low-lectin diet) led to an intestinal flora with less and less diversity over generations. This study has nothing to do with his statement above, in fact, it shows that low lectin diets could possibly be harmful.

These are just a few examples from the first chapters. What is so shocking about this approach is that the author is a highly qualified representative of the medical profession. He should therefore know how to work scientifically and what a supporting scientific study is. But it goes on:

  • P. 12 – “Nightshade plants are highly pro-inflammatory,” says Gundry, but has no evidence to support this statement. Instead, research shows that B. Tomatoes have a highly anti-inflammatory effect.
  • P. 28 – “Up until 10,000 years ago, the average human was about 6 feet tall (1 foot = 30.48 cm).” But that seems wrong because the average human back then was rather only 5.6 feet tall, huh 10 cm less, and makes a difference in body size.
  • P. 31 – According to Gundry, Egyptian mummies indicate that the people in question were overweight and suffered from clogged arteries and diabetes. He believes that this is because a lot of grain was eaten in Egypt. Those people who were mummified, however, are mostly high-ranking representatives of society who – like many other rulers – could have lived on fatty meat, dairy products, sugar in the form of honey, and beer and wine, and not exactly were active in sports. Daily grain meals were more reserved for the common people.
  • p. 33 – Gundry writes that 500 years ago explorers brought back foods from the “New World” that no European, Asian, or African had ever seen before, such as grains and beans. But it is precisely these foods that have existed in the countries mentioned since time immemorial. As is well known, the Roman gladiators 1800 years ago were called “barley eaters” because they lived mainly on barley (and beans).
  • P. 55 – Gundry writes – that most of Gundry’s cancer patients (stage 3 and 4, which corresponds to the terminal stage) got better after his lectin-free diet. That is great news! And everyone wants to know more about these patients. But there is not a single case report, not a single case study published by Gundry.

The majority of people tolerate lectins very well

Gundry’s book is therefore full of claims that either has not been substantiated, that he has not even substantiated himself, or that are obviously false. New insights in the field of nutrition are always possible and extremely interesting, but new and profound insights in particular require credible clues, which Gundry lacks.

Even if a lectin-rich diet could be problematic for some people (due to corresponding intolerances, lectin hypersensitivity, or an inability to eliminate lectins), Gundry completely ignores the health successes of a wholesome plant-based diet, which have long been scientifically proven, which clearly show that the majority of people do NOT react to lectins with symptoms of illness, but can improve their health despite (or because of?) lectins. The wholesome plant-based diet applies e.g. B. as the only form of nutrition that so far – scientifically proven – can reverse the process of arteriosclerosis.

The lectin-free diet may be good for some people, but not necessarily for everyone
If you look at Gundry’s concept of a lectin-free diet and his list of allowed and forbidden foods (no fast food, no processed products, no sugar, only a little meat, and only a few other animal products, gluten-free) and also consider his other tips for your healthy lifestyle (e.g. you should also practice intermittent fasting), then it is not surprising that your diet can be successful.

In many cases, however, these successes could also be achieved without all the excessive effort that Gundry requires (restricting the selection of vegetables, the selection of nuts, certain forms of preparation, etc.), namely with a full-fledged plant-based form of nutrition.

However, anyone who does not achieve an improvement in their well-being with this should definitely try other variants – until you have found the right diet for yourself.

In the end, maybe it’s Gundry’s concept that’s right for you, or maybe it’s the ketogenic diet or the raw food diet. Perhaps you feel most comfortable with the five-element diet or with the Ayurvedic diet. But maybe it is also a very individual mixture of all these forms of nutrition, a mixture that your body gives you, because it knows best what it needs, so the most important task is basically to learn how to use your own body again listen!

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Written by Madeline Adams

My name is Maddie. I am a professional recipe writer and food photographer. I have over six years of experience developing delicious, simple, and replicable recipes that your audience will be drooling over. I’m always on the pulse of what’s trending and what people are eating. My educational background is in Food Engineering and Nutrition. I am here to support all of your recipe writing needs! Dietary restrictions and special considerations are my jam! I’ve developed and perfected more than two hundred recipes with focuses ranging from health and wellness to family-friendly and picky-eater-approved. I also have experience in gluten-free, vegan, paleo, keto, DASH, and Mediterranean Diets.

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