These days, it feels as though every magazine headline we see tells us to avoid lectins. What is this all about? What are they, and why are they something people are avoiding? Is it just another batch of pseudoscience or is this something to take seriously?
Lectins are a type of protein. They bind to carbohydrate molecules. You can find them in nightshade vegetables, certain grains, legumes and some animal-based foods. The claim is that their consumption is among the causes of many health issues. Among these health problems are said to be inflammation, weight gain, gastrointestinal issues, arthritis, and even certain cancers.
The trend to avoid lectins has become quite popular. In fact, a number of celebrities have talked about their love for eating strategies that avoid lectins. Kelly Clarkson, for example, has credited a diet that cuts lectins for her weight loss.
Lectins are a natural part of many plants. It evolved as a form of natural pesticide meant to protect those plants from pests such as insects that would otherwise have eaten them. That said, while there have been diets recommending that we avoid lectins for twenty years, there has yet to be solid scientific evidence to support the claims.
The idea behind the recommendation to avoid lectins is that these natural pesticides have a certain toxicity level to humans. The first large diet recommending their avoidance was the blood-type diet, which has since been entirely discredited by research.
That said, in 2017, Dr. Steven Gundry published his own diet that recommends that we avoid lectins. Gundry is a heart surgeon with a private practice in the United States. His diet indicates that while we’ve thought of certain plants as being healthy, they’re actually foods that should be eliminated.
His claims are supported by his own research in which he studied the data from over 100 of his own patients. Most of those patients saw decreased autoimmune disease markers and inflammation after following a very low-lectin diet. However, other experts have underscored the fact that Gundry’s research was on a tiny sample, was not published or peer-reviewed and didn’t follow the vast majority of the basic protocols for this form of medical research. Therefore, it is not considered acceptable results by the medical community. Without any scientific evidence indicating that eliminating lectins will make a difference to your health and weight loss, there is little – if any – reason to do so.