I had to watch a lot of Gundry MD videos for this post. They put me into a really bad mood.
Who is Dr. Steven Gundry?
Steven Gundry is a California-based cardiologist and author of several diet books, including The Plant Paradox. You’ve definitely seen his ads on social media.
Here’s the thing. Steven Gundry is a legitimate medical doctor, and like a few other MDs in the wellness sphere. But he seems to be focused on making sales versus actually helping people with their health.
That’s a bold claim, I know – but I just can’t get behind the thought that a medical doctor like Gundry does not know that a lot of what he says is just plain incorrect. Not only that, but many of his claims are easily verifiable. It’s just that most people don’t want to or don’t know how to do that.
Critical thinking, interpretation of research, the understanding that cell studies don’t extrapolate to humans – they’re all skills that MDs should have.
Sadly though, some of these docs *ahem* Hyman *ahem* Gundry *ahem* Oz *ahem* seem to have some trouble – intentionally or not – with those things.
Gundry’s ads are like cockroaches. Even if you click ‘hide,’ they’re impossible to get rid of because they’re posted from no fewer than 9 different accounts:
Gundry MD, Dr. Gundry Energy and Health, Dr. Steven Gundry, Gundry MD – Nutrition, Gundry MD – Total Restore, Gundry MD – Energy Renew, Gundry MD – Bio Complete 3, Gundry MD – Bioskin, and Gundry MD Metabolic Advanced.
There’s a distinct incongruence between Gundry’s MD credential, which is something that’s highly respected, and his ads, which are as spammy as the ones from VShred.
The videos usually start with a ridiculous, clickbaity hook like, ‘NEVER EAT THESE THREE FOODS!’ and end up being around an hour in length, complete with dubious claims and high-pressure sales tactics (ACT NOW! SUPPLIES ARE LIMITED!). Many of them have titles or images .(burning eggs??) that are unrelated to the content within the video
Who the heck wants to watch an hour-long ad?
Just like The Plant Paradox, Gundry’s sales pitch has every red flag that ever existed:
- A disclosure that foods you previously thought was healthy, are actually not
- Fear-mongering language
- A sales pitch for his own supplements
- The promise of a big reveal
- The illusion that he’s doing us a favor by telling us a special secret that nobody else knows
- Calling ads ‘presentations’ and ‘videos’
- An appeal to nature by touting ‘natural’ ingredients in what amount to be useless supplements
I think it goes without saying that a person or company that employs all of the above techniques to try and get you to buy something, is a person or company that you shouldn’t pay attention to.
Let’s take a look at some of Steven Gundry’s claims and products.
A lot of what Gundry puts out there revolves around his disdain for lectins, which he calls ‘plant toxins.’ I guess that name makes lectins seem scarier, which is great for Gundry’s bottom line.
He appears to use fear as a driver for clicks and sales in almost everything he writes and publishes.
What are lectins?
Lectins are proteins that are produced by plants as a natural defence. They’re also in a lot of other foods we eat – eggs and meats included. The highest amounts of lectins are in grains and legumes, which of course Gundry tells us to avoid.
According to Gundry, lectins cause leaky gut, which he believes is the cause of all illness. ‘All disease begins in the gut,’ he says, which is not only far-fetched, it has never been proven.
Let’s see, my friend got cancer as a teen because she was eating the wrong things?
Leaky gut isn’t an actual medical diagnosis. It’s often used by alternative medicine practitioners to describe increased intestinal permeability. But those practitioners usually blame ‘leaky gut’ for all sort of illnesses that have never been conclusively shown to be a result of it.
The one exception is in people with celiac disease, whose intestinal permeability increases when they eat gluten. This is very different from Gundry’s claim that X foods cause EVERYONE’S guts to be ‘leaky.’
Gundry also claims that lectins cause us to gain weight, hurt our kidneys, and cause inflammation and autoimmune disease.
None of this is even remotely correct. As with most of his ideas, Gundry is operating off of hypotheses that he himself dreamed up.
Luckily for us, lectins are mostly destroyed by cooking. And since nobody is eating raw kidney beans or rice, we don’t have to worry.
The Blue Zone populations of of the world consume copious amounts of lectin-containing foods, but are the healthiest and longest-living people on the planet. When asked about this, Gundry implied that the ‘antioxidants’ in their diets caused their longevity, and that just because they live longest doesn’t mean they’re healthy and happy.
Autoimmune diseases aren’t necessarily caused by increased gut permeability; We actually don’t know if they’re the result of this condition, or if they’re a symptom. This is the sort of overreach that seems completely normal for Gundry.
Gundry tells us that lectins, in particular agglutinin from grains, mimic insulin and cause diabetes. His source for this claim?
A 1973 study on fat cells. As in, fat cells in a lab dish, not fat cells residing in actual humans. The research used more agglutinin than anyone would eat, and results have never been replicated in humans in the almost 50 years since the study was done.
That Gundry uses this study to ‘prove’ his claims isn’t a surprise: much of the research he cites to back his theories up are animal studies, cell studies, old studies, completely unrelated studies…you get the point. He has been called out for his misleading use of research and the way he twists science, but it’s like water off a duck’s back.
As far as his ‘lectins cause obesity’ claim, this comes from Gundry’s theory that the leaky gut from lectins leads to hormonal shifts that cause weight gain.
Gundry claims that lectins breach the intestinal barrier and trigger our immune system, causing inflammation. This inflammation triggers ‘fat storage hormones’ that then cause us to store fat and gain weight.
Wrong again, Dr. Steven Gundry.
Probably in an attempt to garner credibility for this theory, Gundry says he has lost 70 pounds on his lectin-free diet. He claims that many of his patients have lost weight on his plan by making no changes to their diets besides eliminating lectins.
This is malarkey, but a lot of people are looking for a magical, work-free method to drop pounds. The promise of one simple change that will result in weight loss is just too good for people to pass up, and Gundry knows that.
There is absolutely no science behind Gundry’s weight loss theory, and there is no possible mechanism behind it, either. For the majority of people, lectins don’t harm the gut lining, and they certainly haven’t been shown to mimic insulin and cause fat storage.
Again, Gundry’s ‘proof’ for this claim is that 1973 study. No studies have been done on his lectin-free diet, even though he seems to have had ample time and clinic subjects at his disposal to do one.
If people lose weight on the lectin-free diet, it’s because they’ve cut calories. That’s not unimaginable, since Gundry’s plan eliminates entire food groups. No more grains, very little fruit (which Gundry calls, ‘toxic candy’), and no legumes.
A great 2020 study by Kevin Hall et al showed that ultra-processed foods – which include refined grains such as corn, soy, and wheat – contribute significantly to weight gain due to greater energy availability in those foods.
Gundry’s diet prohibits foods containing those ingredients, so many people on this diet will end up eating less overall. They might lose weight, but it has nothing to do with the lectins.
Which fruits are allowed on the lectin-free diet?
Avocado, figs, coconut, raspberries, and green banana, mostly. Gundry also cautions us that fruit that’s not in-season shouldn’t be consumed.
He claims that ‘the continuous availability of fruit is one of the biggest contributors to the obesity crisis,’ as if everyone is getting fat from eating fruit.
This claim alone demonstrates how incredibly lost Gundry is.
He adds that fruits now have more lectins than they used to, and that our fruits are ‘more likely’ to be GMO, which he says are ‘new organisms, not found in nature.’
I’m going to step in here and say that the only GMO fruits that are sold in North America are papayas, Arctic Apples, and pink pineapples. Yet one more way Gundry stokes fear unnecessarily (also: GMOs have never been shown to be harmful to humans).
Gundry’s content includes him calling bananas, ‘the most dangerous health food.’ This is completely ridiculous, but I suppose it’s consistent with his understanding of nutrition.
Let’s be realistic here: most people in North America don’t consume a lot of lectins, because most of us don’t even come close to eating enough plants. It’s pretty disgusting that Gundry is, in a passive-aggressive way, discouraging people from adding more plants into their diets.
Some people – especially people with IBS – may not tolerate lectin-containing foods. This may be because of the lectins, or it may be because the foods with the highest lectin content are also the foods with the highest FODMAP content as well.
Most of us do tolerate lectin foods well, and here’s a surprise: the fibre in these foods actually feeds our gut bacteria and can strengthen the gut lining, not destroy it. So when a doctor makes a blanket recommendation to avoid foods that are otherwise known as some of the healthiest in the world, it should immediately raise a red flag for you.
Dr. Steven Gundry supplements
Gundry’s ads are mainly focused on his supplements, most of which tie in with the ‘leaky gut is making us all sick’ narrative.
Did I mention that it’s a red flag when someone sells supplements to go along with their diet?
Total Restore, Lectin Shield, and BioComplete seem like Gundry’s bread-and-butter products that are advertised the most.
Lectin Shield is 100% a money-grab for unsuspecting people who believe that lectins are so toxic, that they need to pull every single bit of them out of their diet. Do not fall for this.
BioComplete is an overpriced pre/pro/post biotic that contains Tributyrin, Sunfiber, and lactobacillus. While it may or may not be effective, the claims that are made about BioComplete are absolute f*ckery.
None of the ingredients in BioComplete have ever been shown by legitimate science to reduce cravings, help with weight loss, and increase energy. It actually boggles my mind as to how it’s legal to make these sorts of claims.
It’s interesting to note that BioComplete 3 contains sunflower oil, which Gundry claims is ‘loaded with lectins.’
I guess his own recommendations change when something is making him money.
Total Restore is another overpriced Gundry product that purportedly ‘promotes a healthy gut lining.’
Glutamine, an ingredient in Total Restore, is known for having a positive effect on the gut. But that’s in dosages of 5-45g, not the 213mg that’s in this supplement.
Gundry also says that glutamine can reduce ‘junk food cravings,’ but there is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence that this is true. Glutamine is an amino acid, and like any protein, may increase satiety. But again, in the minuscule dose that TR contains? Probably not.
You know what does help with the gut lining? Fibre. The kind we get from whole grains, starchy and non-starchy vegetables, legumes, and fruit.
This entire Gundry brand is a dumpster fire racket. And I’m not here for it.
I also can’t write a piece on Gundry without including something about the kerfuffle that the amazing Dr. Jen Gunter had with him and Goop a few years back. If you’re looking for more proof of Gundry’s character, here it is.
The bottom line on Gundry and his ads and his supplements and diet is that they’re all a total waste of time, money, and energy.
It seems as though almost every single piece of content that Gundry posts has the objective of stoking fear and anxiety while simultaneously making money through his ‘cures.’
He’s like a shady salesman, spreading misinformation and fear to sell useless products while using his MD credential for credibility. His ads are embarrassing and spammy, and so is his behaviour.
None of his supplements, or his diet, have ever been properly studied for the effects he claims they have, and there’s something really special – in a bad way, mind you – about a licensed physician who spreads half-truths and BS as if they’re fact, all while milking it all to line his pockets.