Nutritional significance of lectins and enzyme inhibitors from legumes

J Agric Food Chem. 2002 Oct 23;50(22):6592-8. doi: 10.1021/jf020191k.


Legumes have natural components, such as lectins, amylase, and trypsin inhibitors, that may adversely affect their nutritional properties. Much information has already been obtained on their antinutritional significance and how to inactivate them by proper processing. Chronic ingestion of residual levels is unlikely to pose risks to human health. On the other hand, the ability of these molecules to inhibit some enzymes such as trypsin, chymotrypsin, disaccharidases, and alpha-amylases, to selectively bind to glycoconjugates, and to enter the circulatory system may be a useful tool in nutrition and pharmacology. Trypsin inhibitors have also been studied as cancer risk reducing factors. These components seem to act as plant defense substances. However, increased contents may represent an impairment of the nutritional quality of legumes because these glycoproteins and the sulfur-rich protease inhibitors have been shown to be poorly digested and to participate in chemical reactions during processing reducing protein digestibility, a still unsolved question.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cooking
  • Digestion
  • Enzyme Inhibitors*
  • Fabaceae / chemistry*
  • Food Handling / methods*
  • Nutritive Value
  • Plant Lectins / metabolism
  • Plant Proteins / metabolism*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Plant Lectins
  • Plant Proteins