Why You Should Ignore “The Plant Paradox” by Steven Gundry

The skeptical cardiologist first encountered the blather of Dr. Steven Gundry while researching and writing a post entitled  The #1 Red Flag of Quackery.

Gundry came across my quack radar screen due to the popularity of his useless supplements and his pseudoscientific justifications. He is also widely described as a cardiologist but he is not, He is (or was) a cardiac surgeon (like, strangely enough, the celebrity prince of quackery, Dr. Oz)

Gundry is also a Goop doctor, which means Gwyneth Paltrow, the  celebrity queen of weird quackery endorses him.

I’ve been meaning to write specifically about his most popular useless supplement, Vital Reds.

In the meantime, Gundry has  come out with a best-selling.  book entitled  “The Plant Paradox: The Hidden Dangers in Healthy Foods That Cause Disease and Weight Gain”.

This book claims to reveal to its readers the great dietary “secret” that is causing almost all chronic diseases. Of course, Gundry is the only person with the brilliance and insight to have recognized this. Only those who are willing to plunk down the money to buy his book will learn this secret and the (mostly gobbledook) science behind it.

This  technique of convincing the naive that only you are aware of the “hidden” factor which is  the cause of their various maladies can probably be considered the #2 Red Flag of Quackery.

The Plant Paradox would have you believe that lectins are the major danger in our diet.

I’ve come across two well-researched pieces which destroy any validity to the concepts put forth by Gundry in The Plant Paradox.

Campbell: Is It Possible Gundry Is Out To Make A Quick Buck?

The first is from T. Colin Campbell of China Study fame. While I don’t agree with his overall dietary philosophy (see here) in his article he has taken the time to read Gundry’s book in detail and address in great detail the multiple bogus claims and the lack of scientific support. Campbell begins:

The claims come fast and furious in this book, stated with a degree of certainty, without nuance, that undoubtedly appeals to many readers. But the referencing is so lacking and sloppy that Dr. Gundry should be embarrassed. The references that are cited in this book do a poor job of trying to justify its claims. And the bulk of the author’s wild claims lack references at all, with several examples of easily verifiable falsehoods. Because his claims are quite profound and novel, referencing of the findings of others and his own results are especially important. This is especially troubling for an author who touts his own research experience.

After debunking Gundry’s lectin claims , Campbell suggests that Gundry’s major goal is selling more useless supplements, including one that will protect readers from the dreaded lectin:

In conclusion, there are many people who desire good health and deserve good information and we resent that they must suffer such poor quality and confusing information under the assumption that it is good science. Is it possible that Dr. Gundry is just out to make a quick buck? He admits that his patients give up to a dozen vials of blood for testing every couple of months at his clinic. Overtesting is common practice in supplement-driven clinics. This extensive testing, (which are another topic), is almost always used to demonstrate some type of nutritional pathology, which of course can only be corrected by taking the suggested supplements. And of course, Dr. Gundry sells supplements, including “Lectin Shield” for about $80 a month. According to his website, “This groundbreaking new formula was created to offset the discomforting effects of lectins (proteins commonly found in plants that make them harder to digest). Lectin Shield works to protect your body from a pile-up of lectins and to promote full-body comfort.”

Are Lectins The Next Gluten?

The second article I highly recommend was written for The Atlantic last year by one of my favorite medical writers, James Hamblin, MD.

Entitled, “Lectins Could Become the Next Gluten“, the article combines a tongue–in-cheek commentary with interviews with scientists who debunk Gundry’s claims. Hamblin also interviews Gundry which is particularly revelatory as to Gundry’s lack of credibility.

Although Gundry claims his writing is not motivated by money, Hambling notes:

Yes, he also sells supplements he recommends. The last 20 or so minutes of his infomercial is a string of claims about how supplies are running low, and it’s important that you act immediately, and that if you do manage to get through to a customer representative you should order as much as you have room to store—the shelf life is great, etc. And the necessity of supplements is the crucial argument of the book. He writes, “Getting all of the nutrients you need simply cannot be done without supplements.”

The GundryMD line of products includes something he invented called vitamin G6. Another is a “lectin shield” that’s “designed to neutralize the effects of lectins.” These are available on his website for $79.99. There you can also get six jars of Vital Reds for $254.70.

Fake Dietary Science Undermines Valid Dietary Recommendations

Hambling closes his piece by noting that book publishers have no accountability for publishing dietary/health misinformation as they are incentivized to publish and profit from the most outrageous claims.

This is a problem much bigger than any plant protein. Cycles of fad dieting and insidious misinformation undermine both public health and understanding of how science works, giving way to a sense of chaos. It seems that every doctor has their own opinion about how to protect your body from calamity, and all are equally valid, because nothing is ever truly known.



N.B. Gwyneth Paltrow (GOOP) deserves a prominent place in the Quackery Hall of Shame.

Julia Belluz of Vox has a typically spot-on piece about GOOP which begins:

Gwyneth Paltrow has made a career out of selling pseudoscience on her lifestyle website, Goop. Over the years, the actress has proclaimed women should steam their vaginas, that water has feelings, and that your body holds secret organs. Mixed into these absurd assertions is her bogus detox diet and cleansing advice, all of it in service of promoting Goop’s beauty and wellness products

23 thoughts on “Why You Should Ignore “The Plant Paradox” by Steven Gundry”

  1. Thank you for this informative article. Have you read the books ”Let Food be your Medicine” and, Dr. Colbert’s Keto Zone Diet” by Don Colbert, MD? I was wondering if you have read these books and what is your opinion of what he writes and, is his writings factual and legit or is he just trying to sell books?

    Thank you, Anita Perez

    Sent from my iPad


  2. I am driven by science based information. Recently a doctor told me, I read too much. Then refused to write a prescription for cymbalta because it had a black box warning. I have taken cymbalta for 11years due to chronic pain, depression, etc. thank you

  3. Quack or not, by whatever definition, he’s not the only one. I could mention certain Big Pharmaceutical companies and published “benefits” of statins Always as the Question, ‘how much longer will I live by taking this Magyck Potion?’

    – Where this Doctor – Paul Mason – has a closer look at the vital need for lots of …. fiber.
    – Doubt what he says? Think of the Eskimo (ok, Inuit) who lived on a diet rich in meat, and blubber. And fat. And fatty meat. Early contact with them made no mention of their chronic constipation. Possibly because it wasn’t a problem. – But compare their diet with the advertisements we see for breakfast cereals.
    Dishonesty is not restricted to Snake-Oil Salesmen !

  4. You are my new hero (at least for the time being). Thank you for adding brains and more than a sprinkling of logic to the equation. In light of Dr. Gundry’s over zealous mission to save the eater from himself as an act of selfless service, I can’t help but notice selfies in Palm Springs and his push for organic foods and supplements donut eaters can’t afford, not to mention those “way past his age” glasses. The red flag should be more than obvious. I’m always suspect of anyone who says, “I’m just here to help.” Not that everything he says is wrong.. but maybe a little extreme and definitely money-driven.

  5. Interesting I should come across this just after watching Gundry’s video and also noticed the “We might run out!” marketing at the end. I’ve just started chemo and have been looking for ways to both assist my body’s natural healing processes and deal with raging indigestion, but I also know that there’s a mega-billion marketing industry out there. The more I read the more I appreciate Michael Pollan. And I’m glad you approve of full fat yogurt – my yogurt maker has payed for itself many times over and I don’t add sugar.

  6. Was looking for your thoughts on Texas superfood And are there any good supplements for getting your fruits and vegetables. And lastly you say countries Reds are useless. Why is this is it the ingredients?

  7. Thanks for this great feedback and I won’t be taking the plunge into Dr. Gundry’s Diet Evolution after all. Appreciate the research conducted to debunk this Leaky Gut theory.

    1. Can you show me where leaky gut is debunked? I’m not asking for references about how plants defend themselves or anything about Gundry’s stupid overpriced nonsense pills, I’m wondering how you generalized your interpretation up to leaky gut. None of the articles talk about lipopolysaccharides, so I’m left feeling like Monsanto told you leaky gut doesn’t exist.

  8. Yeah, DR. Gundry mentioned Dr. Oz I deleted my history and moved on.

    Dr. Oz should be ashamed of himself. His show really is like unto a sideshow with people he brings on to fill time.

    Not only is he not convincing but the pushers of their wares are even less so.
    The vendors (I call them) really appear to be neighbors or ex-clients who he has recruited to keep his show going.

    Every time he opens his little lips to speak his eyes stretch and he breaths in and out pop little big lies and I was amazed that the audience actually fed into the three ring circus act time and time again.

    I am very serious Dr. Oz seems to me the type of man who will continue to pull at straws rather than admit defeat and go back to his so called practice.

    I personally think in the beginning his looks drew people, but age is taking its toll and it’s as if he is sinking and grabbing whatever he can to stay afloat.

    Whatever, meaning, amature after amature pushing their wares. It is plain to see they do not put a lot of professional thought into their presentations, but then, why should they, when they are catering to an audience of people who are looking for a pied piper to fix that which may not be an issue until DR. Oz says it is.

    Dr. Oz in my personal opinion is no less than the imaginary character Wizard of oz! If he still has his practice I surmise that hoodwinkcockledoodleado will not fly wirh them and I believe he has the good sense not to try it wirh his patients.

    I even bet his customers sat at home eatting popcorn and drinking gin and call one another after every show and roll with laughter at how gullible the people are that attend the show.

    Personally, I feel sorry for them! Dr. Oz should be have feathers glued on his bottom and made to do the rooster dance
    and sing cockledoodleado until his sense of decency and compassion for other human beings returns.

  9. Thank you for the article. The video threw me off with repetitive emphasis on his claim of being a “celebrated cardiologist” and the painfully obvious pressure tactics at the end…but I listened to all of it because I wish there was some truth in the claims

  10. Thank you for your article. It confirmed my suspicions. One measure that I use for evaluating advice is how long does it take to give the advice. If an email runs for pages and pages, it is likely bogus. And I listened to Dr Gundry’s video presentation in its entirety to see what techniques he used. It ran for about an hour! And when he stopped speaking, the screen still showed the “Next” button. After about a minute of silence, he said, “I see that your are still here. That is probably because you have questions.” And he launched into another 10 minutes of his pitch!

  11. I watched Dr. Gundry’s video clip for about 20 minutes,out of 50+ minutes, before I realized he was selling a panacea. It shouldn’t have taken that long. He is selling people a be-young-and-energetic-again dream, which does not exist.

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