Have you heard of the so-called Gundry Diet? The diet comes to us from Dr. Steven Gundry, author of the New York Times best-seller The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in “Healthy” Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain. The book, published in 2017, aims to unteach us many things we thought we knew about nutrition. Perhaps, the book suggests, foods that we always thought were good for us, beans, whole grains, squash, nuts are actually not so great after all. But don’t go purging the pantry just yet. The fact is that the Dr. Gundry Diet is largely based on pseudoscience and it’s not regarded as a healthy diet option by most physicians.
What is the Gundry Diet?The Gundry Diet was created by Plant Paradox author Steven Gundry, a cardiologist and heart surgeon who now sells supplements that claim to prevent disease and boost health. At its core, the Gundry Diet is a lectin-free diet, meaning it aims to lower, or totally eliminate, lectins from your meal plan. Gundry recommends replacing lectin-rich foods—including fruits and veggies—with high-fat foods, such as different kinds of oils and some high-fat nuts and seeds. What are lectins and are they actually bad? Lectins are plant proteins which bind to carbohydrates. They are found in a wide range of foods, including wheat, seeds, beans, tomatoes, potatoes and peanuts. According to Gundry, lectins “ignite a chemical warfare” in the body, causing inflammation that leads to weight gain and chronic diseases. Gundry’s approach requires the total elimination of many foods that are actually excellent for our health. What’s more, many scientists, dietitians and doctors argue that lectins may bring more good than bad to the dinner table.
The Problems with the Gundry Diet
- It’s Not Rooted in Fact—If it surprised you to learn that many of the foods you consider healthy are off-limits, don’t panic just yet. Gundry’s book is extremely controversial, with critics pointing out several misrepresentations of data and gaps in information. Hallelujah Diet Research Director Dr. Michael Donaldson found several issues with Gundry’s research, uncovering that some of his claims are blatantly false and that the author cites studies that do not illustrate at all what he’s claiming. Critics point out that, in addition to misconstruing the results of certain research, Gundry points to anecdotes rather than cold, hard data to support his claims that lectins are the enemy of good health.
- It Presents Lectins as the Enemy—According to Gundry, the main cause of inflammation and inability to lose weight is lectins in our diet. If we stop eating lectins, we’ll lose weight, guard ourselves from disease and feel all-around better, Gundry claims. The thing is, some lectins are perfectly harmless and may even be beneficial to our health, with some studies suggesting that they are antimicrobial and provide support to the immune system. The hysteria surrounding lectins comes from the fact that some lectins are toxic, but those are rarely found in food, and that a small number of people have lectin intolerance. Notably, eliminating many foods with lectins can actually lead to a deficiency in crucial nutrients, say the experts.
- It’s Not Healthy, Plain and Simple—The fact of the matter is that a lectin-free diet goes against everything we know for certain about nutrition. A former president of the American Heart Association told Live Science that Gundry’s diet contradicts recommendations from the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association and others. Dr. T. Colin Campbell of the Center for Nutrition Studies points out that the author falsely claims his work has been peer-reviewed (in reality, it has not been peer-reviewed to the standards of the reputable scientific research community). Thus, it’s best to avoid the diet altogether unless more legitimate, convincing research emerges.