Every year, a couple health and wellness books go great guns, saturating the airwaves and selling millions of copies.
You know, books like How Not to Die, Grain Brain, and Why We Get Fat.
The talk of the town is currently Dr. Steven Gundry’s The Plant Paradox, which claims the conventional advice of eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is flawed and in many cases even harmful.
In other words, according to Dr. Gundry, many of the foods you’ve been told were good for you contain substances that spark “chemical warfare” in your body and insidiously undermine your health over time.
Gluten, dairy, and sugar—the usual suspects—are fingered, but so is another component of many fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains that many people haven’t heard of: lectins.
These little “splinters of protein,” as Dr. Gundry calls them, purportedly wreak havoc in the body, causing weight gain, “leaky gut,” cancer, and heart, brain, and autoimmune disease, as well as a slew of nuisances like acne, gas, morning stiffness, joint pain, migraines, and chronic pain and fatigue.
In fact, lectins are so destructive that Dr. Gundry denounces them as the common cause for most health problems, full stop. Thus, he says, it’s time to slaughter the sacred nutrition cow of generally eating more plant food, because it’s making people sick, fat, and ultimately dead.
While Dr.Gundry presents himself as a charismatic caregiver who only wants what’s best for his patients and the world, many of his peers aren’t buying it.
They point to gaping holes in his interpretation of the research, which they say clearly rejects his lectin hypothesis and maintains the nutritional value of getting the majority of your calories from plant foods.
Well, the short story is this:
The Plant Paradox is rife with inaccuracies, misrepresentations, and outright misinformation, and the diet espoused in it is unnecessarily restrictive and blatantly designed to sell people overpriced and ineffective supplements.
And in this podcast, you’re going to find out why.
5:38 – What is the plant paradox diet?
9:47 – What are lectins and why are they the target of Dr. Gundry’s book?
12:43 – What are the benefits of lectins?
16:48 – Do the healthiest people in the world eat a lot of lectins?
24:06 – Do lectins make you fat?
33:29 – Do lectins cause heart disease?
36:38 – Do lectins cause leaky gut?
41:10 – Were our ancestors diet low on lectins?
44:22 – Can lectins make you sick if they’re eaten raw?
46:57 – Are Dr. Grundy’s products and supplements good?
56:37 – How can you use food to optimize your body composition, physical health, and longevity?
Mentioned on The Show:
What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!
+ Scientific References
- Evans, E. M., Mojtahedi, M. C., Thorpe, M. P., Valentine, R. J., Kris-Etherton, P. M., & Layman, D. K. (2012). Effects of protein intake and gender on body composition changes: A randomized clinical weight loss trial. Nutrition and Metabolism, 9(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1743-7075-9-55
- Helms, E. R., Aragon, A. A., & Fitschen, P. J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: Nutrition and supplementation. In Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (Vol. 11, Issue 1, pp. 1–20). BioMed Central Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
- Gannon, M. C., & Nuttall, F. Q. (2004). Effect of a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet on blood glucose control in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes, 53(9), 2375–2382. https://doi.org/10.2337/diabetes.53.9.2375
- Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R. D., Wolfe, R. R., Astrup, A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 87(5). https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558s
- Zhang, Y., Li, X., Zou, D., Liu, W., Yang, J., Zhu, N., Huo, L., Wang, M., Hong, J., Wu, P., Ren, G., & Ning, G. (2008). Treatment of type 2 diabetes and dyslipidemia with the natural plant alkaloid berberine. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 93(7), 2559–2565. https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2007-2404
- Chen, C., Tao, C., Liu, Z., Lu, M., Pan, Q., Zheng, L., Li, Q., Song, Z., & Fichna, J. (2015). A Randomized Clinical Trial of Berberine Hydrochloride in Patients with Diarrhea-Predominant Irritable Bowel Syndrome. Phytotherapy Research, 29(11), 1822–1827. https://doi.org/10.1002/ptr.5475
- Dong, H., Wang, N., Zhao, L., & Lu, F. (2012). Berberine in the treatment of type 2 diabetes mellitus: A systemic review and meta-analysis. In Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (Vol. 2012). Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. https://doi.org/10.1155/2012/591654
- Wu, A. M., Jiang, Y. jen, Hwang, P. Y., & Shen, F. shiun. (1995). Characterization of the okra mucilage by interaction with Gal, Ga1NAc and GlcNAc specific lectins. BBA - General Subjects, 1243(2), 157–160. https://doi.org/10.1016/0304-4165(94)00130-P
- Freed, D. L. J. (1999). Do dietary lectins cause disease?: The evidence is suggestive—and raises interesting possibilities for treatment. In BMJ (Vol. 318, Issue 7190, pp. 1023–1024). BMJ Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7190.1023
- Usha, P. R., & Naidu, M. U. R. (2004). Randomised, double-blind, parallel, placebo-controlled study of oral glucosamine, methylsulfonylmethane and their combination in osteoarthritis. Clinical Drug Investigation, 24(6), 353–363. https://doi.org/10.2165/00044011-200424060-00005
- Cederberg, B. M., & Gray, G. R. (1979). N-acetyl-d-glucosamine binding lectins. A model system for the study of binding specificity. Analytical Biochemistry, 99(1), 221–230. https://doi.org/10.1016/0003-2697(79)90067-8
- Ramadass, B., Dokladny, K., Moseley, P. L., Patel, Y. R., & Lin, H. C. (2010). Sucrose co-administration reduces the toxic effect of lectin on gut permeability and intestinal bacterial colonization. Digestive Diseases and Sciences, 55(10), 2778–2784. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10620-010-1359-2
- Lajolo, F. M., & Genovese, M. I. (2002). Nutritional significance of lectins and enzyme inhibitors from legumes. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50(22), 6592–6598. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf020191k
- Hermanussen, M. (2003). Stature of early Europeans. HORMONES, 2(3), 175–178. https://doi.org/10.14310/horm.2002.1199
- Milton, K. (2000). Hunter-gatherer diets - A different perspective. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 71, Issue 3, pp. 665–667). American Society for Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/71.3.665
- Cordain, L., Miller, J. B., Eaton, S. B., Mann, N., Holt, S. H. A., & Speth, J. D. (2000). Plant-animal subsistence ratios and macronutrient energy estimations in worldwide hunter-gatherer diets. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 71(3), 682–692. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/71.3.682
- Luca, F., Perry, G. H., & Di Rienzo, A. (2010). Evolutionary adaptations to dietary changess. In Annual Review of Nutrition (Vol. 30, pp. 291–314). NIH Public Access. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-nutr-080508-141048
- Peter R Lister, Paul Holford, Tony Haigh, & David A. Morrison. (n.d.). Acacia in Australia: Ethnobotany and Potential Food Crop. Retrieved December 7, 2020, from https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/V3-228.html
- Radermacher, P., & Haouzi, P. (2013). A mouse is not a rat is not a man: species-specific metabolic responses to sepsis - a nail in the coffin of murine models for critical care research? Intensive Care Medicine Experimental, 1(1), 7. https://doi.org/10.1186/2197-425x-1-7
- Demetrius, L. (2005). Of mice and men. EMBO Reports, 6(SUPPL. 1), S39. https://doi.org/10.1038/sj.embor.7400422
- Even, P. C., Virtue, S., Morton, N. M., Fromentin, G., & Semple, R. K. (2017). Editorial: Are Rodent Models Fit for Investigation of Human Obesity and Related Diseases? In Frontiers in Nutrition (Vol. 4, p. 1). Frontiers Media S.A. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnut.2017.00058
- Camilleri, M., & Gorman, H. (2007). Intestinal permeability and irritable bowel syndrome. In Neurogastroenterology and Motility (Vol. 19, Issue 7, pp. 545–552). Neurogastroenterol Motil. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2982.2007.00925.x
- Leonard, M. M., Sapone, A., Catassi, C., & Fasano, A. (2017). Celiac disease and nonceliac gluten sensitivity: A review. In JAMA - Journal of the American Medical Association (Vol. 318, Issue 7, pp. 647–656). American Medical Association. https://doi.org/10.1001/jama.2017.9730
- Linderoth, A., Prykhod’ko, O., Ahrén, B., Fåk, F., Pierzynowski, S. G., & Weström, B. R. (2006). Binding and the effect of the red kidney bean lectin, phytohaemagglutinin, in the gastrointestinal tract of suckling rats. British Journal of Nutrition, 95(1), 105–115. https://doi.org/10.1079/bjn20051612
- Sjölander, A., Magnusson, K. E., & Latkovic, S. (1984). The effect of concanavalin a and wheat germ agglutinin on the ultrastructure and permeability of rat intestine: A possible model for an intestinal allergic reaction. International Archives of Allergy and Immunology, 75(3), 230–236. https://doi.org/10.1159/000233621
- Visser, J., Rozing, J., Sapone, A., Lammers, K., & Fasano, A. (2009). Tight junctions, intestinal permeability, and autoimmunity: Celiac disease and type 1 diabetes paradigms. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 1165, 195–205. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.04037.x
- Arrieta, M. C., Bistritz, L., & Meddings, J. B. (2006). Alterations in intestinal permeability. In Gut (Vol. 55, Issue 10, pp. 1512–1520). BMJ Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1136/gut.2005.085373
- Karhu, E., Forsgård, R. A., Alanko, L., Alfthan, H., Pussinen, P., Hämäläinen, E., & Korpela, R. (2017). Exercise and gastrointestinal symptoms: running-induced changes in intestinal permeability and markers of gastrointestinal function in asymptomatic and symptomatic runners. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 117(12), 2519–2526. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-017-3739-1
- Pugh, J. N., Impey, S. G., Doran, D. A., Fleming, S. C., Morton, J. P., & Close, G. L. (2017). Acute high-intensity interval running increases markers of gastrointestinal damage and permeability but not gastrointestinal symptoms. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, 42(9), 941–947. https://doi.org/10.1139/apnm-2016-0646
- Martínez-González, M. A., Gea, A., & Ruiz-Canela, M. (2019). The Mediterranean Diet and Cardiovascular Health: A Critical Review. In Circulation Research (Vol. 124, Issue 5, pp. 779–798). Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. https://doi.org/10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.118.313348
- Harris, K. A., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2010). Effects of whole grains on coronary heart disease risk. In Current Atherosclerosis Reports (Vol. 12, Issue 6, pp. 368–376). Curr Atheroscler Rep. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11883-010-0136-1
- Thielecke, F., & Jonnalagadda, S. S. (2014). Can whole grain help in weight management? Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, 48, S70–S77. https://doi.org/10.1097/MCG.0000000000000243
- Nour, M., Lutze, S. A., Grech, A., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2018). The relationship between vegetable intake and weight outcomes: A systematic review of cohort studies. In Nutrients (Vol. 10, Issue 11). MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111626
- Genoni, A., Lyons-Wall, P., Lo, J., & Devine, A. (2016). Cardiovascular, metabolic effects and dietary composition of ad-libitum paleolithic vs. Australian guide to healthy eating diets: A 4-week randomised trial. Nutrients, 8(5). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8050314
- Huth, P. J., Fulgoni, V. L., Keast, D. R., Park, K., & Auestad, N. (2013). Major food sources of calories, added sugars, and saturated fat and their contribution to essential nutrient intakes in the U.S. diet: Data from the national health and nutrition examination survey (2003-2006). In Nutrition Journal (Vol. 12, Issue 1, p. 116). BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/1475-2891-12-116
- Livingston, J. N., & Purvis, B. J. (1980). Effects of wheat germ agglutinin on insulin binding and insulin sensitivity of fat cells. American Journal of Physiology - Endocrinology and Metabolism, 1(3). https://doi.org/10.1152/ajpendo.1980.238.3.e267
- Agnoli, C., Sieri, S., Ricceri, F., Giraudo, M. T., Masala, G., Assedi, M., Panico, S., Mattiello, A., Tumino, R., Giurdanella, M. C., & Krogh, V. (2018). Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and long-term changes in weight and waist circumference in the EPIC-Italy cohort. Nutrition and Diabetes, 8(1), 22. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41387-018-0023-3
- Huedo-Medina, T. B., Garcia, M., Bihuniak, J. D., Kenny, A., & Kerstetter, J. (2016). Methodologic quality of meta-analyses and systematic reviews on the Mediterranean diet and cardiovascular disease outcomes: A review. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 103, Issue 3, pp. 841–850). American Society for Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.3945/ajcn.115.112771
- Rees, K., Hartley, L., Flowers, N., Clarke, A., Hooper, L., Thorogood, M., & Stranges, S. (2013). “Mediterranean” dietary pattern for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. In Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Vol. 2013, Issue 8). John Wiley and Sons Ltd. https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009825.pub2
- Zhan, J., Liu, Y. J., Cai, L. B., Xu, F. R., Xie, T., & He, Q. Q. (2017). Fruit and vegetable consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 57(8), 1650–1663. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408398.2015.1008980
- Subar, A., & Patterson, B. (1992). Fruit, Vegetables, and Cancer Prevention: A Review of the Epidemiological Evidence. In Nutrition and Cancer (Vol. 18, Issue 1, pp. 1–29). Nutr Cancer. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635589209514201
- Liu, S., Manson, J. E., Lee, I. M., Cole, S. R., Hennekens, C. H., Willett, W. C., & Buring, J. E. (2000). Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: The Women’s Health Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(4), 922–928. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.4.922
- Keys, A., Menotti, A., Aravanis, C., Blackburn, H., Djordevič, B. S., Buzina, R., Dontas, A. S., Fidanza, F., Karvonen, M. J., Kimura, N., Mohaček, I., Nedeljkovič, S., Puddu, V., Punsar, S., Taylor, H. L., Conti, S., Kromhout, D., & Toshima, H. (1984). The seven countries study: 2,289 deaths in 15 years. Preventive Medicine, 13(2), 141–154. https://doi.org/10.1016/0091-7435(84)90047-1
- Aune, D., Keum, N., Giovannucci, E., Fadnes, L. T., Boffetta, P., Greenwood, D. C., Tonstad, S., Vatten, L. J., Riboli, E., & Norat, T. (2016). Whole grain consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and all cause and cause specific mortality: Systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ (Online), 353. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i2716
- Hartley, L., Igbinedion, E., Holmes, J., Flowers, N., Thorogood, M., Clarke, A., Stranges, S., Hooper, L., & Rees, K. (2013). Increased consumption of fruit and vegetables for the primary prevention of cardiovascular diseases. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2013(6). https://doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD009874.pub2
- Hu, D., Huang, J., Wang, Y., Zhang, D., & Qu, Y. (2014). Fruits and vegetables consumption and risk of stroke: A meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Stroke, 45(6), 1613–1619. https://doi.org/10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.004836
- Miller, V., Mente, A., Dehghan, M., Rangarajan, S., Zhang, X., Swaminathan, S., Dagenais, G., Gupta, R., Mohan, V., Lear, S., Bangdiwala, S. I., Schutte, A. E., Wentzel-Viljoen, E., Avezum, A., Altuntas, Y., Yusoff, K., Ismail, N., Peer, N., Chifamba, J., … Mapanga, R. (2017). Fruit, vegetable, and legume intake, and cardiovascular disease and deaths in 18 countries (PURE): a prospective cohort study. The Lancet, 390(10107), 2037–2049. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(17)32253-5
- Ganesan, K., & Xu, B. (2017). Polyphenol-rich lentils and their health promoting effects. In International Journal of Molecular Sciences (Vol. 18, Issue 11). MDPI AG. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18112390
- Nidhi Srivastava, A. K. G., & Sameer S. Bhagyawant, A. K. S. C. (2017). Analysis of Wild Chickpea Seed Proteins for Lectin Composition. International Journal of Current Research and Academic Review, 5(5), 8–14. https://doi.org/10.20546/ijcrar.2017.505.002
- Savelkoul, F. H. M. G., Tamminga, S., Leenaars, P. P. A. M., Schering, J., & Ter Maat, D. W. (1994). The degradation of lectins, phaseolin and trypsin inhibitors during germination of white kidney beans, Phaseolus vulgaris L. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 45(3), 213–222. https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01094091
- Nachbar, M. S., & Oppenheim, J. D. (1980). Lectins in the United States diet: A survey of lectins in commonly consumed foods and a review of the literature. In American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Vol. 33, Issue 11, pp. 2338–2345). Am J Clin Nutr. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/33.11.2338
- Willcox, B. J., Willcox, D. C., He, Q., Curb, J. D., & Suzuki, M. (2006). Siblings of Okinawan centenarians share lifelong mortality advantages. Journals of Gerontology - Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 61(4), 345–354. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/61.4.345
- Poulain, M., Pes, G. M., Grasland, C., Carru, C., Ferrucci, L., Baggio, G., Franceschi, C., & Deiana, L. (2004). Identification of a geographic area characterized by extreme longevity in the Sardinia island: The AKEA study. Experimental Gerontology, 39(9), 1423–1429. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.exger.2004.06.016
- Guo, S., Nighot, M., Al-Sadi, R., Alhmoud, T., Nighot, P., & Ma, T. Y. (2015). Lipopolysaccharide Regulation of Intestinal Tight Junction Permeability Is Mediated by TLR4 Signal Transduction Pathway Activation of FAK and MyD88. The Journal of Immunology, 195(10), 4999–5010. https://doi.org/10.4049/jimmunol.1402598
- Rhodes, J. M. (1999). Genetically modified foods and the Pusztai affair . In British Medical Journal (Vol. 318, Issue 7193, p. 1284). BMJ Publishing Group. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.318.7193.1284
- De Mejía, E. G., & Prisecaru, V. I. (2005). Lectins as bioactive plant proteins: A potential in cancer treatment. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 45(6), 425–445. https://doi.org/10.1080/10408390591034445
- Nizet, V., Varki, A., & Aebi, M. (2017). Microbial Lectins: Hemagglutinins, Adhesins, and Toxins. https://doi.org/10.1101/GLYCOBIOLOGY.3E.037