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Are Lectins the New Gluten?


Way back in 1988 a hospital launched a “healthy eating day.” One of the dishes included at lunch was of red kidney beans.

Thirty-one portions were served. Over the next four hours, 11 of the customers devastatingly suffered from vomiting and gastrointestinal distress.

When the lunchtime foods were tested, it was determined that the beans contained an abnormally high concentration of something called lectin phytohaemagglutinin.

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Well, guess what? In the decades since then, scientists have learned that many lectins are toxic. They cause an inflammatory response and are shockingly resistant to both cooking and digestive enzymes.

…And they’re one of the top 10 causes of food poisoning.

But that’s not the end of the story. It turns out that some lectins are able to penetrate your gut barrier and travel to other organs in your body.

Why Lectins Are So Bad for Your Health

About 30% of our everyday foods contains lectins. A type of protein, lectins have very strong binding properties. Not only do they bind with carbohydrates, they can also bind to the cells on the gut wall.

This dangerous binding, in turn, can disrupt digestion, create nutritional deficiencies and cause severe intestinal damage. In fact, a PloS One study has shown that lectins can actually disable cells in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Once disabled, these cells are no longer able to repair rips and tears that occur in the walls during normal digestive activity.

Study author Dr. Paul L. McNeil notes, “That means you have gaps in the integrity of the surface area of the epithelium and you are exposing the nasty internal world of your GI tract to your blood supply.” It’s suspected that this invasion could be the gateway to several autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders. It may also be implicated in endothelial dysfunction, which occurs when cells lining the interior wall of blood vessels become damaged and start to malfunction.

Which Foods Contain the Most Lectins?

While a large number of foods contain some amount of lectins, those with the highest concentration include:

  • Nightshade fruits and vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplants and goji berries
  • Whole grains like wheat, barley, rice, quinoa, rye, buckwheat, millet and corn
  • Beans, lentils, peas, soybeans and peanuts
  • Dairy products, particularly those that come from grain-fed cows

Research regarding the health-damaging effects of lectins is continuing to mount, and it seems that this health epidemic is much more widespread and hazardous than that as a result of gluten.


Freed DLJ. Do dietary lectins cause disease? BMJ. 1999 Apr 17; 318(7190): 1023–1024.

Why Red Beans And Rice Can Be Nauseating. Press Release. Medical College of Georgia via EurekAlert. Aug 2007.

Miyake K, et al. Lectin-Based Food Poisoning: A New Mechanism of Protein Toxicity. PLoS ONE. 2007; 2(8): e687.

Vojdani A. Lectins, agglutinins, and their roles in autoimmune reactivities. Altern Ther Health Med. 2015;21 Suppl 1:46-51.

Zheng J, et al. Dietary Plant Lectins Appear to Be Transported from the Gut to Gain Access to and Alter Dopaminergic Neurons of Caenorhabditis elegans, a Potential Etiology of Parkinson’s Disease. Front Nutr. 2016; 3: 7.

American Heart Association. “Diet, ‘anti-aging’ supplements may help reverse blood vessel abnormality.” ScienceDaily. May 2013.

Dana Nicholas is a freelance writer and researcher in the field of natural and alternative healing. She has over 20 years of experience working with many noted health authors and anti-aging professionals, including James Balch, M.D., Dr. Linda Page, “Amazon” John Easterling and Al Sears M.D. Dana’s goal is to keep you up-to-date on information, news and breakthroughs that can have a direct impact on your health, your quality of life… and your lifespan. “I’m absolutely convinced that America’s misguided trust in mainstream medicine – including reliance on the government to regulate our food and medicine supply – is killing us, slowly but surely,” she cautions. “By sharing what I’ve learned throughout the years I hope I can empower others to take control over their own health.”

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