Lectins in the United States diet: a survey of lectins in commonly consumed foods and a review of the literature

Am J Clin Nutr. 1980 Nov;33(11):2338-45. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/33.11.2338.


Plant lectins or phytohemagglutinins possess potent in vivo biological activities. Some, primarily of the family Leguminosae, have been shown to have deleterious nutritional effects. Little information exists, however, regarding the prevalence of lectins or the specific foods that contain lectins in the United States diet. In the present study the edible parts of 29 of 88 foods tested, including common salad ingredients, fresh fruits, roasted nuts, and processed cereals were found to possess significant lectin-like activity as assessed by hemagglutination and bacterial agglutination assays. Based on this survey and a review of the literature we conclude that dietary exposure to plant lectins is widespread. The spectrum of nutritional consequences of such exposure remains to be determined.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Agglutination Tests
  • Arachis / analysis
  • Bacteria / immunology
  • Basidiomycota / analysis
  • Condiments / analysis
  • Edible Grain / analysis
  • Food / adverse effects
  • Food Analysis*
  • Fruit / analysis
  • Hemagglutination Inhibition Tests
  • Hemagglutination Tests
  • Humans
  • Lectins / adverse effects
  • Lectins / analysis*
  • New York City
  • Plant Lectins
  • Vegetables / analysis


  • Lectins
  • Plant Lectins