As the gluten-free diet fad winds down, a “lectin-free” diet may become the next big trend. Fueling interest is a new book called The Plant Paradox by Steven R. Gundry (Harper Wave 2017), which claims that lectins in whole grains, legumes, nightshade vegetables (tomato, pepper, eggplant, potatoes), fruit, dairy and eggs are the enemy of anyone trying to lose weight and/or optimize health, according to a report on the Food Insight website.

Lectins are plant proteins that bind to carbohydrates and are found in about 30% of all food. In animal studies (few human studies have been done), lectins have been found to resist digestion, remaining partially undigested in the gut. There they can bind to cells of the digestive tract and cause cell disruption and inflammation.

In human health, lectin function is poorly understood, though we do know that it could be associated with inflammatory disease in some genetically susceptible people. Also, eating certain uncooked foods (like raw kidney beans) can cause lectin-induced food poisoning (cooking the beans deactivates the lectin). For the clear majority of people, however, the health benefits of eating plant-based foods greatly outweigh any purported
negative impacts.

Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RD

"Natalie Digate Muth, MD, MPH, RDN, FAAP, is a board-certified pediatrician and obesity medicine physician, registered dietitian and health coach. She practices general pediatrics with a focus on healthy family routines, nutrition, physical activity and behavior change in North County, San Diego. She also serves as the senior advisor for healthcare solutions at the American Council on Exercise. Natalie is the author of five books and is committed to helping every child and family thrive. She is a strong advocate for systems and communities that support prevention and wellness across the lifespan, beginning at 9 months of age."

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