Quinn on Nutrition: And Lectins?

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Reader Susan S. writes, in part, “Intestinal health eventually becomes more common in the mainstream. But almost never that: there are grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables that have LECTINS that pierce small holes in our intestines. I thought you might want to check it out to inform your readers. I realize it’s not a simple topic … ”

You’re right, Susan, it’s not an easy subject.

A recent review on this topic by registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Sementelli notes, “As with many debates in the nutrition sciences, there is evidence to support and oppose the inclusion of lectins in the diet.”

Therefore, it is important, he continues, to fully understand the whole research before forming an opinion.

First, what are lectins?

They are a type of protein found in most as , legumes and fruit. These proteins are more concentrated in black beans, soy and beans .

Plant specialists say lectins can help sprout. They also help protect a growing plant from fungi and other pests.

However, some evidence has emerged that lectins can damage the intestinal tract and cause inflammation. Some studies even suggest a link between lectins and the development of rheumatoid arthritis. However, very few of these studies have been performed in humans. Most have been in rats.

Research also shows that these proteins are found in it can have some health benefits. Various types of lectins have been shown to fight specific viruses and bacteria and protect against yeast infections. Lectins are also studying their potential to fight cancer, including (curiously) cancers of the digestive tract.

So far, all studies have been on lectins isolated from foods where they reside naturally.

So is it a good idea to stay away from healthy plant foods like legumes and whole grains to avoid lectins? Or can we get the many nutritional benefits of these foods and still protect ourselves from possible problems with lectins?

First, know that simply cooking beans, whole pasta or similar inactivates lectins. Some processes like irradiation also appears to reduce the activity in plant foods.

Second, remember that high concentrations of pure lectins fed to rats do not always match what we would normally consume in our diets. For example, one study used the amount that would equate to eating more than 80 slices of wholemeal bread. Clearly more research is needed to find out all of this.

Legumes, whole and soy foods are basic pillars of many recommended and well-researched diets, including Mediterranean and vegetarian dietary guidelines. If you have digestive problems that you think may be due to lectins, look at portions, cook food well, and seek informed medical and nutritional advice.


What are diet lectins and should you avoid eating them?


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