The longevity paradox: How to die young at a ripe old age by Dr. Joseph Mercola for Mercola
In this interview, Dr. Steven Gundry, medical director for International Heart & Lung Institute and director for Center for Restorative Medicine, reviews some of the concepts covered in his book “The Longevity Paradox: How to Die Young at a Ripe Old Age.”
While trained as a cardiothoracic surgeon, Gundry now specializes in treating patients holistically, focusing on food. I’ve previously interviewed him about plant lectins — the topic of his book “The Plant Paradox” — and the damage they can wreak on your health. Considering their potential influence, it’s not surprising to find plant lectins covered in his book on longevity as well.
What are plant lectins?
As noted by Gundry, certain plant lectins are potent inflammatories, and inflammation is a foundational contributor to most disease. Some lectins — including wheat germ agglutinin found in wheat — bind to receptor sites on your intestinal mucosal cells and interfere with the absorption of nutrients across your intestinal wall.
At the 2019 American Heart Association’s vascular biology meeting, Gundry presented evidence showing dietary lectins can cause an autoimmune attack on the surface of blood vessels.
You can tell this by measuring a cytokine called IL-16, which pulls inflammatory cells to a site. “I showed that removing dietary lectins would dramatically reverse a score that’s been validated for risk of acute coronary syndrome in the next five years, called the pulse score,” Gundry says. “And it did so by lessening IL-16 production.”
In summary, plant lectins are proteins used by the plant as a self-defense mechanism. “The plants use lectins to defend themselves against being eaten,” Gundry says, admitting the concept that plants don’t want to be eaten is a tough nut for most people to swallow.
“On the other hand, it’s a way of distributing seeds,” he says. “That’s how plants, once again, manipulate their predators to get what they want … Lectins are sticky proteins designed to bond to particular sugar molecules that line our gut … the spaces in our joints … between nerves [and] … our blood vessels.
I and definitely others are convinced that lectins can contribute or are a major cause of what we associate with the diseases of aging, such as arthritis, heart disease [and] neuropathy. There is pretty good increasing information that Parkinson’s may be a lectin problem.
We know that several of the insecticides and herbicides can use lectins to climb the vagus nerve to the brain and go directly to the substantia nigra. My humble opinion is that lectins should be looked at seriously.”
Should everyone avoid plant lectins?
Avoiding certain inflammatory plant lectins is one of the foundational recommendations in “The Longevity Paradox,” and while lectins may be particularly hazardous to specific groups of people, especially those with autoimmune diseases, Gundry believes lectin avoidance is a core longevity strategy for anyone with a damaged gut, which would include most people.
“There are differences in how people react to lectins. Let me say that first off. I can tell you absolutely positively, when we get the major dietary lectins out and we simultaneously seal their gut wall and rebuild their gut microbiome, then over 90% of these people go into remission for their autoimmune disease,” Gundry says.
“On the other hand, is everybody sensitive to them? I think if you have a decent diverse gut microbiome and an incredibly thick mucus layer on your gut, then you’re going to be able to withstand the onslaught or the dietary lectins.
I think what’s happened [is] … our microbiome has been devastated. Our gut wall permeability has been devastated by nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, glyphosate and Roundup. Our proton pump inhibitor is changing.”