By Dr. Mercola
While whole foods are healthy, there are certain caveats to consider even here. Lectins (not to be confused with the phospholipid lecithin) are carbohydrate-binding proteins that are widespread in the plant kingdom. An estimated 30 percent of fresh foods contain lectins.1
Even dairy contains lectins. Grass fed butter is an exception. Grass fed milk is also lower in lectins than grain-fed milk, thanks to higher amounts of SlgA, an immunoglobulin that binds to lectins.2 Lectins get their name from the Latin word legere, from which the word “select” derives — and that is exactly what they do: They select (attach to) specific biological structures that allow them to do harm, as part of the plant’s self-defense mechanism.
It’s nature’s ingenious way of keeping natural enemies like fungi and insects at bay. Unfortunately, some of these glycoproteins may also cause trouble in humans. Lectins were first discovered in castor bean casings, which contain the lectin ricin. Ricin is so toxic that a dose the size of a few grains of salt can kill an adult if injected or inhaled.
The Plant Paradox
Dr. Steven Gundry’s newly released book, “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in ‘Healthy’ Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain” has gained widespread media attention, reigniting the discussion — and concern — about lectins.3,4 Gundry has also completed a human study on lectins. In the Selfhacked interview above, he discusses some of his findings, and the reasoning behind his lectin avoidance diet.
There’s a load of interesting information there, so I recommend taking the time to watch it, and/or read through the accompanying article.5 Many are now familiar with the problems of gluten, but lectins could potentially be just as problematic. That’s not to say the issue lacks controversy. There’s plenty of that to go around. Still, I believe the issue of lectins — toxic lectins, to be more exact — in the diet warrants a closer look.
While Gundry goes so far as to declare lectins the greatest danger in the American diet, especially for those with autoimmune disease, the reality is likely to be far different. Authority Nutrition6,7 points out that lectins in small amounts can actually provide valuable health benefits, including immune and inflammation modulation, and that problems will only arise when you’re getting high amounts of them.
Indeed, I believe it would be a mistake to assume all lectins are bad for you. For example, avocados contain the lectin agglutinin (persea Americana agglutinin),8 but that hardly places them on the list of foods to avoid! Avocados are among the healthiest foods I can think of, and research9 shows the agglutinin found in avocado is devoid of specificity for carbs. It interacts with proteins and polyamino acids instead.
Beans, on the other hand, not only contain lectins that can cause problems for many people, they also have the added drawback of being high in net carbs, and are therefore best avoided in the initial transitional stages of a ketogenic diet. So, there are pros and cons to consider, depending on the food in question. The presence of lectin is by no means a sole determinant. That said, certain lectins have more potent toxic or allergenic effects,10 and the lectins found in beans fall into this category.
Lectins and Their Harmful Effects
Among the most problematic lectin-containing foods11,12 are wheat and other seeds of the grass family,13 beans, soy and other legumes, peanuts, and members of the nightshade family14 such as eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes and peppers.
Grains and legumes such as black beans, soybeans, lima beans, kidney beans and lentils contain the highest amounts. Generally speaking, lectins are a type of glyca-binding protein, meaning proteins that bind to carbohydrates in your body. There are many types of lectins, and the main difference between them is the type of sugar each prefers and binds to in your body.
As noted by Dave Asprey, founder of Bulletproof.com,15 “One of the reasons wheat is so bad for you is that the lectin in wheat is attracted to glucosamine, the polysaccharide that covers your joints.” Some — including wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), found in wheat and other grass-family seeds — bind to specific receptor sites on your intestinal mucosal cells and interfere with the absorption of nutrients across your intestinal wall.
As such, they act as “antinutrients,” and can have a detrimental effect on your gut microbiome by shifting the balance of your bacterial flora — a common precursor to leaky gut.
Lectins Are Highly Inflammatory
One major concern is that most lectins are proinflammatory, meaning they trigger inflammation and create advanced glycation end products. C-reactive protein (CRP) is one example of the many lectins you have circulating in your body right now, and it’s used as a marker of inflammation.
They are also immunotoxic (capable of stimulating a hyperimmune response), neurotoxic and cytotoxic, meaning they’re toxic to cells and may induce apoptosis (cell death). Certain lectins may also increase your blood viscosity by binding to your red blood cells.
This makes the blood cells sticky, resulting in abnormal clotting. Some lectins (such as WGA) may even interfere with gene expression and disrupt endocrine function. Lectins also promote leptin resistance, thereby increasing your risk of obesity. All of these factors can predispose you to disease.
For more of this great read by doctor Mercola click the link below:
We can destroy the harmful lectins by cooking them in a pressure cooker:
notice at minute mark 25:20-26:20
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