• Glenn Wilson

    A book purported to expose the “hidden dangers’ in healthy foods doesn’t even pass the whiff test.

    Dr. Greger: Earlier this year, I started getting emails about this book, The Plant Paradox, purporting to expose “The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain”—foods like beans, and whole grains, and tomatoes. Why? Because of lectins, which is a rehashing of the discredited Blood Type Diet from decades ago. They just keep coming back. Yeah, but this was written by an M.D., which, if you’ve seen my medical school videos, you’ll know is effectively an anti-credential when it comes to writing diet books—basically advertising to the world that you’ve received likely little or no formal training in nutrition. Dr. Atkins was, after all, a cardiologist. But look; you want to give the benefit of the doubt. The problem is that it doesn’t even seem to pass the sniff test.

    I mean, if lectins are bad, then beans would be the worst, and so bean counters would presumably find that bean eaters cut their lives short, whereas the exact opposite may be true with legumes (beans, split peas, chickpeas, and lentils)—found to be perhaps the most important dietary predictor of survival in older people in countries around the world. As Dan Buettner points out in his Blue Zones work, lectin-packed foods “are the cornerstones of” the diets of all the healthiest, longest-lived populations on the planet. Plant-based diets in general, and legumes in particular, are a common thread among longevity Blue Zones around the world—the most lectin-lush food there is. And, if lectins are bad, then whole grain consumers should be riddled with disease—when, in fact, “whole grain intake is associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease,” the #1 killer of men and women; strokes, too; and total cancer; and mortality from all causes put together—meaning people who eat whole grains tend to live longer, and, get fewer “respiratory diseases, infectious diseases, diabetes, and all non-cardiovascular, non-cancer causes” to boot. And, not just in population studies. As I’ve shown, you can randomize people into whole-grain interventions, and prove cause-and-effect benefits. The same with tomatoes. You randomize women to a cup and a half of tomato juice or water every day, and all that nightshade tomato lectin reduces systemic inflammation, or has waist-slimming effects, reducing cholesterol as well as inflammatory mediators.
    NutritionFacts: Dr. Gundry’s The Plant Paradox Is Wrong.

    How to properly cook beans.

    In the 1800s, a compound was discovered in castor beans, which we would come to know as the first of a class of lectin proteins—natural compounds found throughout the food supply, but concentrated in beans, whole grains, and certain fruits and vegetables. Every decade or two, in the popular literature, and the medical literature, a question is raised whether dietary lectins are causing disease. It’s easy to raise hysteria about lectins. After all, that first one, found back in 1889, went by the name ricin, known to be “a potent homicidal poison”, used by the Kremlin to assassinate anti-Communist dissidents—or by rogue chemistry professors, for that matter. And, ricin is a lectin. Thankfully, however, “many lectins are non-toxic, such as those [found in] tomatoes, lentils,…and other common foods.” And, even the ones that are toxic—like those found in kidney beans—are utterly destroyed by proper cooking.

    But, you can’t eat raw kidney beans. If you do, you’ll be doubled over with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea within hours, thanks to the lectins, which would otherwise be destroyed by adequate cooking. How do you even eat raw kidney beans, though? I mean, the only way they’re sold uncooked is as dried beans, and they’re like little rocks. Well, in the first reported outbreak, “an impromptu supper was made” with a bag of beans dumped in a skillet, and soaked in water overnight, but never cooked. You can’t even just throw dried beans in a slow cooker. Dried kidney beans have to be boiled. Kidney beans should be soaked in water for at least five hours, and then boiled for at least ten minutes. Ten minutes? Kidney beans wouldn’t be done in just ten minutes. Exactly. Yeah, cooking presoaked beans for a couple minutes can destroy the lectins, but it takes like an hour of boiling before they’re edible, before you could, you know, flatten them easily with a fork. So, the lectins would be long gone before they’re palatable.
    NutritionFacts: How to Avoid Lectin Poisoning.

    Might lectins help explain why those who eat more beans and whole grains have less cancer?

    Lectins are to blame for the great “white kidney bean incident” of 2006 in Japan. One Saturday evening, a TV program introduced a new method to lose weight. The method was simple: toast some dry raw white kidney beans in a frying pan for three minutes, grind the beans to a powder, and then dust it on their rice. Within days, a thousand people fell ill—some with such severe diarrhea and vomiting they ended up in the hospital. Why? Lectin poisoning.

    Three minutes of dry heat is not enough to destroy the toxic lectins in kidney beans. If you don’t presoak them, you need to boil large kidney beans for a full hour to completely destroy all the lectins—though if you first soak them overnight, 98% of the lectins are gone after boiling for just 15 minutes, and all gone by half an hour. And indeed, when they tested the white beans, toasting for three minutes didn’t do a thing; no wonder people got sick, whereas 95% of the lectins were inactivated after boiling them for three minutes, and completely inactivated after ten. Evidently, “’Do not eat raw beans’ is a traditional admonition in Japan to [avoid] intestinal problems”—and now, we know why.

    While canning may completely eliminate lectins from most canned beans, some residual lectin activity may remain in canned kidney beans—though apparently not enough to result in toxicity. And ironically, “[l]ow doses of lectins may be beneficial by stimulating gut function, limiting tumour growth, and ameliorating obesity.” What? I thought lectins were toxic.
    NutritionFacts: Are Lectins in Food Good or Bad for You?

    To see the full transcript or links to cited sources go to the link above, then scroll below the video and click on View Transcript or Sources Cited.

    If you are interested in vegan or whole food plant based diets check out Go Whole Food Vegan by a local SMA vegan and The Vegan Wave SMA (Facebook).

    More in the category Health and Medical.

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