The Plant Paradox: Can You Trust Dr. Gundry?

Today you will find a guest blog article from our Director of Research, Michael Donaldson, PhD.  Please enjoy the wealth of experience and wisdom this article entails:

Michael Donaldson, PhD writes:

Here at Hallelujah Diet we are constantly seeking to understand health and nutrition. We know that we understand only in part. And we have made improvements to the Hallelujah Diet program based on continuing research.

So, when a book comes along from a vegetarian doctor claiming to tell us “everything you thought you knew about your diet, your health, and your weight is wrong,” we checked it out. The Plant Paradox, authored by Steven R. Gundry, MD, came with some recommendation saying that it might help us understand what was “missing,” or “why the diet may not work for some.” Well, we try to help as many people as want to try the Hallelujah Diet, so we checked it out.

After the long introduction, pointing out his own expertise and clinically gained wisdom to speak to matters of health, and talking about the war between plants and animals (what?), I wanted to know if I could trust “Dr. G.”

First, I don’t buy the war between animals and plants or evolution.  In Genesis 1:29 God originally gave us the plant kingdom for food. My understanding of creation is that mankind is the crown jewel of all God created, and He put us in place to be good stewards of His creation. So, thinking that plants were made to be food for us just makes sense. There is a symbiotic relationship between mankind and plants, even indicated by their generation of oxygen for us and our generation of carbon dioxide for them. They are good for us and we are good for them.  I don’t see a war here.

So, I wanted to know if I could trust Dr. G. I can’t go interview any of his patients. I have no way of knowing if any of these stories in the book are valid. I assume so, but can I trust him to tell me the truth?

Well, how does he do with things I can verify, like scientific references?  I will give you a few examples and then let you decide for yourself.

First, in the Introduction, page xi, I came across his referral to gluten as a lectin. Gluten a lectin? That was a new one to me. So, I went to PubMed and checked it out. Here I found a reference to a study that examined lectin activity in gluten. It turned out that “Our results indicate that the lectin properties of gluten are due to traces of WGA.” (Pubmed #3839672) WGA is wheat germ agglutinin, a lectin. Well, how about gliadin, a component of gluten complex in wheat? Maybe he meant gliadin? Another study showed conclusively that, “Gliadin preparations failed to cause agglutination of any of the cells tested, whereas established pure plant lectins were active cell agglutinins.” (Pubmed #3709069). Conclusion: gluten and gliadin are not lectins.  Strike one for Dr. G. My suspicion is mounting. But maybe he is just a bit loose with the facts.

Second, as I was browsing through the book on page 209 I came across his take-down of peanuts. I’m interested in knowing why you shouldn’t eat peanuts, so I read more carefully. As near as I can tell by reading through 2 of the 3 full-text references, the claims he made here are not derived from the sources he referenced. He claims, “94 percent of humans carry a preformed antibody to the peanut lectin.” I got the impression that the reference would be something about this idea. Instead, the research group investigated using PNA (peanut agglutinin, a non-toxic lectin in peanuts) as a way to identify adenocarcinomas in esophageal biopsies by histological examination. The abnormal tissue bound PNA, whereas normal tissue did not. In fact, Table 1 and Figure 1 in the article show the normal control subjects as having very, very low binding of PNA. This is exactly the opposite of Dr. G’s claim of 94 percent! Strike 2 for Dr. G. My distrust is growing, but still not sure.

So, I went to the next reference in the paragraph and checked it out. The claim in the text is that lectin in peanut oil causes atherosclerosis in experimental animals, whereas peanut oil without lectin in it does not cause the disease (see p. 209). This would have been a great study to see. However, the reference is about identification of peanut lectin in someone who ate peanuts. I did not read the full-text of this article, not wanting to waste $31 on verifying this dubious claim. I found an abstract from the same authors and it looks like the same work (same title, too). In this study a person ate 200 grams of raw peanuts (not advised, who eats raw peanuts?) and peanut lectin was detected in his blood one hour later. This report has nothing to do with atherosclerosis or experimental animals or peanut oil. Strike 3 for Dr. G. He has not earned my trust.

But the “stunner” claim takes the cake.  In the next sentence Dr. G claims, “When peanuts are fed to humans and their resulting bowel movements are fed to rats, precancerous lesions appear in the rat colons.” When I read the reference I found Dr. G had grossly misused the scientific data, in every sense of the word.  First, the peanut lectin used in the study was purchased from Sigma Chemical, not derived from human feces (whew!). Second, this was an in vitro study using cell cultures, without the use of rats. Third, the study (again) points out the peanut lectin only binds to abnormal tissue lacking terminal sialic acid on the O-linked oligosaccharides of glycoproteins (Yes, I successfully defended my PhD thesis and published peer-reviewed articles on glycosylation and oligosaccharide processing in insect cells, trying to modify the cell culture environment so as to obtain terminally-linked sialic acid, the requirement for human therapeutic glycoproteins, so lectins and glycoprotein processing actually are in my field of expertise.) The cited reference was a molecular biology examination of how peanut lectin changes cell signaling pathways in a culture of HT29 colon cancer cells. Normal cells do not bind peanut lectin and peanut lectin does not cause precancerous lesions to appear. Strike 4 for Dr. G. You are out! (Sure, it only takes 3 strikes, but I was being generous and that last “stunner” claim was too much to leave alone.)

Do I trust Dr. Gundry to state the truth? No. Are the stories in the book true? I do not know, but I do not trust him. Knowing what I just told you, do you trust him?  If you aren’t sure, you should read the blog article from T. Colin Campbell as well. This careless use of the scientific literature exists throughout the entire book. For a novel “change-your-mind-about-everything-you-know-about-nutrition” idea, you had better document your argument very well. There is no way his arguments could stand up to peer-review and get published. Only among nutrition-confused Americans can you write a book to bash healthy foods and make it a best seller.

Are Americans really struggling with health from eating lectin-rich foods? Too much whole grain bread? Did we get fat by eating too much brown rice and beans and salsa? Too many tomatoes and sunflower seeds? Too much quinoa? Too much barleygrass juice? Really?

If you have an autoimmune disease what should you do? If you are overweight (after all, who isn’t in the USA?) what should you do? A 3-day juice fast is a great start. You need a clean slate to make a fresh start. A 7-day juice cleanse is even better; just get enough fresh juice, at least 2 quarts a day. Periodical cleansing is a good practice. Then eat more salads and vegetables.

What is the best way to dramatically increase your vegetable intake? Here is a “secret” that actually works: Get a juicer and use it. Drink at least 16 ounces of vegetable juice every day (at least 80% vegetables / 20% fruit for best results). You can make twice as much every other day and store the juice one or two days. Use your blender and make green smoothies, too. Then follow the Hallelujah Diet or make gradual changes to get you there.  If you follow the Hallelujah Diet you will dramatically improve your physical and mental health. Perfect health? No, not in this imperfect world, but yes, excellent health.

We will continue to serve you and put forward real solutions to help you improve your health. We are here to serve you, so let us know how we can best do that.

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  1. Thank you for this article. I heard Dr G. on you tube. and if you believed him, everything you knew is wrong. I know there are non-Christians that are really intelligent and I have learned from them, however, when he kept saying we were evolved, that was offensive and didn’t want to hear what he had to say any longer

  2. Thank you so much for this article. I enjoy and appreciate reading the “scientific sleuthing.”

  3. Good for you stick with God’s word, He will never lead you in a wrong direction

  4. Thanks for your research, the info today is mind boggling. We just need to use common sense and think of what nature provides vs the state of the food world today. Yes, you are right, we can’t control everything we put into our bodies (sadly) but we sure can use wisdom for the most part. Blessings!

  5. Wow! Thanks for this excellent and scholarly review of a book that is obviously neither excellent nor scholarly. Keep up the good work!

  6. Thank you Michael Donaldson for your response to the book, The Plant Paradox. Yes, it sounds like a number of the studies are not well documented. I have hear from other sources that scientific study results can be manipulated to proved whatever the interested party wants to prove.

    I’m encouraged by the reminder that juicing and green smoothies can make a difference in my health. I especially like the green smoothies because they are less time consuming than juicing. When the green are blended instead of eating them in a salad, they are easier to digest, so more nutrition is being absorbed into my body.

  7. thank you for this information. I’ve read articles from Dr. G and seen some of his Youtubes, somehow it seems that something was “off”. I didn’t realized he claimed to be a vegetarian, but gave recipes that included meat, it was just something that didn’t seem Kosher. Again, thank you for this information.

  8. Thank you for giving facts to combat this author who is “tickling” the ears of his readers. I hope
    he does not do this for gain of monies.
    “God’s ways are not man’s ways”

  9. Michael, This is Vickie Allen from the Juicing Study. I don’t remember why but I stopped reading his articles months ago. I am just glad that you validated what I was thinking. No pain but I have the Drs. baffled as to why one of my liver count total is remaining high. If a regular test it shows normal but when they to an indepth test, that one total comes back high risk even though I’m taking a liver cleansing vitamin. But by general Dr. says “not to worry”.
    Thank you for the article even though most was over by head but I got the general jest and that’s what matters.
    Blessings to the whole Hallelujah Diet family.

  10. Thank you Dr. Donaldson for your accumulated knowledge, research background & comments. You are a God-send to be on our side & watching out for us. We trust you & appreciate you. God bless you & your family.

  11. I read your critique with great care and now some apprehension…..very interesting!! Do you have any insight to his “Dr.G Diet Evolution” ? also with regards to the product “prebiothrive” and how it compares to what is offered by hallelujah diet and products? Thanks..would really like a reply..

  12. Dr. B. E. Culbreth

    Thank you so much for doing the research–and sharing the results thereof–on “The Plant Paradox” by Steven R. Gundry. It saddens me that so many people will purchase that book and will follow the advice of Steven R. Gundry simply because the cover of the book states that it is a New York Times Bestseller. Unfortunately, a best-selling book does not mean the book contains accurate information.

  13. I have found that “Juicing” is very time consuming and adds quite a bit to the grocery bill. For both reasons, many people let it go by the wayside. However, it may be the best thing we can do for ourselves. Recently, I started using cabbage in my juice which is always reasonably priced and easy to prep. I would love to hear what others have done to maintain a juicing regimen, especially if they get up well before dawn like I do.

  14. Excellent article that explains the TRUTH, Dr. Michael! Even if Dr. Gundry is correct is some of his ideas on leptins, the answer is to consume more proteases that are found in certain plants as in pineapple and papaya. If those are not available, then taking digestive enzymes is the next best bet. Keep up the good work.
    Dr. Fred, DC, MS

  15. My husband and I have been following Plant Paradox since April 8, 2017. We take the prebiothrive, primal plants, and vital reds everyday. I have lost over 100 pounds, and my health has vastly improved. My husband lost 85 pounds, and is off his diabetes and diuretic medications.
    I know that he is real “wordy” in his books and it takes some time to read… BUT, the results are amazing! Yes, it is a very restrictive diet… but, I have lost 100 pounds without exercising yet! This is all from following his eating plan!
    And I am 52…
    I have been on and off diets my entire life.
    I have tried everything twice!
    Dr Gundry was my last ditch effort before gastric bypass consideration.
    I am very grateful to have found him!
    I am also a Christian… and I do not find his use of the word evolve offensive at all. We are ALL evolving! That can mean anything from our spiritual growth to how our bodies respond to change…
    I will not be discouraged by your article/blog as I am LOVING the results of Plant Paradox! I have clients who have asked my how I have lost so much weight.. who have also started Plant Paradox and cannot believe their own results!
    I am also off ALL over the counter medications.. to include ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, benadryl, zyrtec, and sleep aid. I do not have severe joint pain anymore… and I was having to use a walker on and off prior to plant paradox…
    I hope a different perspective will help one of your readers who may be ready to just give up… as I was.
    thank you

  16. Ok, so Dr. Gundry has an MD and you have a PhD. Long story short, this means that Dr. Gundry is someone who is actually in the real world applying his knowledge to actual real patients. A PhD is someone who sits in a classroom and pontificates about his very narrow field of knowledge. A PhD is someone who is paid to conduct myopic research and publish in peer-reviewed journal articles, but to do so they need to often focus on minutia that only those relative few in the field actual care about. Often PhDs work toward advancing THEORY which may or may not have real world applicability.

    MDs focus much more on real world application. They do not necessarily focus on trying to get peer-reviewed publications in an effort to get tenure so that they can then basically retire at the age of 40 and hit on the young coeds.

    MDs, especially one of Dr. Gundry’s relative fame, do have a practitioners license they need to protect. PhDs have no such license or official certification board such as the AMA.

    So, based on only such variables I’d say I’m better off trusting an Doctorate of Medicine (MD) than a Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD).

    I’l also add that a significant portion of the peer-reviewed literature is garbage. It’s rehashed stuff in an effort to get publications. At tier one universities professors are expected to publish at least twice a year in peer-reviewed journals, so they cut corners and find ways to rehash, reuse, or simply add a twist in an effrt to get a publication. It happens in both qualitative and quantitative research.

    In addition, about the “successful defense” of the dissertation. Often, at that stage of the game, the defense is a mere formality as the doctoral committee has pretty much already signed off on it and the actual defense is merely a right of passage scenario.

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