The Lectin Paradox

The Lectin Paradox

Some of you may have heard of the book “The Plant Paradox” by Dr. Steven Gundry or watched some of his promotional videos that claim to expose the hidden dangers in “healthy” foods. He claims that he has found foods that can actually cause disease and weight gain: for example, foods like tomatoes, grains, and beans. The reason he gives is that they contain lectins, which are carbohydrate-binding proteins known as macromolecules.

This idea is a rehashing of the Blood Type Diet from more than ten years ago which has been discredited. Just because he is an MD does not mean that he knows anything about diet. This diet that he proposes does not even make much sense. If lectins are bad, that would mean that beans are the worst for you and bean eaters are cutting their lives short. But the exact opposite is true. Eating legumes like beans, peas, and lentils is actually found to be the most important dietary predictor of survival in people all over the world. Legume-rich diets are found in all the longest living and healthiest populations around the world. Plant-based diets and particularly ones with legumes, the highest lectin containing foods, are the common element among those who live the longest. If grains are bad, then we should find those who eat a lot of them to be full of disease. The reality is that “whole grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease” which is the number 1 killer, as well as strokes and cancer. Dan Buettner says that “respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes” are all decreased in those who consume whole grains.

It has also been shown that tomatoes are health-promoting. Women given 1.5 cups of tomato juice each day, which is full of lectins, actually reduce systemic inflammation, waist fat, and cholesterol.

So when you hear about a new diet or health-promoting vitamin, mineral, or chemical, and it is heavily promoted by someone, also look to see what they have to sell. If they are trying to sell something, even just a book, watch out. In fact, Steven Gundry is not only selling his book, which will supposedly teach you all the details of what to avoid, but he has a whole line of expensive supplements for sale. Not only that, he also has a whole line of skincare products. And if that is not enough to make him rich and you poor, he also sells chocolate and soon olive oil.

So are lectins perfectly harmless? There is such a thing as lectin poisoning. If you have ever eaten raw beans or raw bean flour, you probably realized it didn’t agree with you. It is true that large quantities of lectin are toxic. But the small amounts that people normally get from well-cooked beans, grains, and tomatoes can be beneficial in stimulating gut function, limiting tumor growth, and decreasing obesity. Beans need to be cooked to destroy lectins. Kidney beans are the hardest to destroy the lectins in them. You need to boil kidney beans for 1 hour to completely destroy the lectins. But if you soak them overnight, 98% of the lectins are gone after boiling for only 15 minutes, and completely gone after 30 minutes. Other beans only need three minutes to remove 95% of the lectins and ten minutes to completely inactivate them.

There was a discovery in 1963, “that…lectins could distinguish between [cancer cells] and normal cells.” Researchers at Mass General found the lectin in wheat germ which appeared “to be tumor cell specific” clumping together “the tumor cells, while the normal cells” were left almost completely alone. So specific that you can take a stool sample from someone, and based on lectin binding to the colon lining cells that get sloughed off into the feces, you can effectively predict the presence of polyps and cancers. Lectin can also extinguish the cancer cells, while largely leaving the normal cells alone. White kidney bean lectin was found to almost completely suppress the growth of human head and neck cancer cells, liver cancer cells, breast cancer cells, and cervical cancer cells within three days.

Research and time has proven that the best diet for man is one that contains a variety of whole plant-based foods with most of the calories coming from whole grains, legumes, potatoes, and fruits. A good quantity of vegetables, nuts, and seeds is important to maintain health. Foods from animal flesh, dairy, and eggs degrade health over time and can cause cancer, heart disease, and many other diseases if used very much. Refined plant-based foods can also lead to disease because of a lack of nutrition if heavily consumed.

God has provided all that man needs to be healthy from the plants that He created.

Written by Daniel Baldwin, B.S.


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Chan YS, Xia L, Ng TB. White kidney bean lectin exerts anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects on cancer cells. Int J Biol Macromol. 2016 Apr;85:335-45.

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Summary: Are tomatoes really bad for you? I discuss what some are saying about it and other foods.

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