Health effects of wheat lectins: a review.

V.J. van Buul*, F.J.P.H. Brouns

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Lectins are carbohydrate-binding proteins present in most plants. They play a role in protecting plants against external pathogens, like fungi, and other organisms. Some common dietary staples, such as cereal grains and legumes, have relatively high concentrations of a variety of lectins. A part of the proteins present in wheat germ is characterized as wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), in this respect. Authors of popular nutritional plans propose adverse health effects of this wheat lectin. With the use of different arguments, the consumption of foods high in lectins is discouraged. In this context, we discuss the effects of lectins from wheat on human health. Up-to-date research findings on mechanisms that wheat lectins have effects on health factors, such as obesity, autoimmune disease, and celiac disease, are critically reviewed. We conclude that there are many unsubstantiated assumptions made. Current data about health effects of dietary lectins, as consumed in cooked, baked, or extruded foods do not support negative health effects in humans. In contrast, consumption of WGA containing foods, such as cereals and whole grain products, has been shown to be associated with significantly reduced risks of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, as well as a more favourable long-term weight management. Research is recommended to define actual active lectin contents in wheat-based foods after heat preparation for human consumption.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-117
JournalJournal of Cereal Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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