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Plant Antinutrients notes

What classes of antinutrients are there? Links to research on antinutrients, based on context of notes of classification from Plant Food Toxins in an Evolutionary Context — George Diggs, Ph.D., AHS14.


  • Toxins
  • Hormone disruptors
  • Digestibility reducers
  • Semiochemicals


These antinutrients are harmful to the metabolism of the organism consuming them, such as cicutoxin in hemlock, Cicuta maculata. Here are some commonly known toxins:

  • Cyanogenic glycosides - herbivore toxin
  • Cysteine protease - insect gut toxin
  • Thiaminase - Fern toxin causes fatal B1-vitamin deficiency
  • Lectins
  • Photosensitizer
  • Ptaloquinonase - carcino- and mutagenic Fern toxin

Cyanogenic glycosides can cause thyroid and neurological problems. Cyanogenic glycosides are in plants like sorghum, cassava, yucca, tapioca, wilted cherry leaves. Farmed plants low in these, but may have to be pre-processed.

Lectins are probably protection against pathogens like fungi and insects.Mirelman 1975 Lectins are heat sensitive. But foods prepared without cooking: cereals, myesli, wheat germ.

Photosensitizers like furanocoumarins cause vulnerability to UV-radiation once light-activated. Celery and wild parsnip, Apiaceae (carrot ramily), Rutaceae (citrus family, lime, grapefruit) include these xanthotoxins that are metabolized by liver P450 enzymes.Berenbaum: Toxicity of furanocoumarin 1978 Celery dermatitis.

Hormone disruptors

Hormone disruptors effect the animal hormone function. Soybean isoflavones are excellent fungicides. Phytoestrogens can cause serious reproductive problems in sheep. Mycoestrogens bind strongly with human ER alpha and beta, present in contaminated cereals.Stanciu 2015, Food Tech

Bracken fern contains not only metabolic toxins, cyanogenic toxins, but also hormone mimic that disrupts insect metamorphosis.Jones 1978, JoCE, Selvaraj 2005, APPP

Digestibility reducers

Protease inhibitors reduce biological activity, such as digestion of amino acids from the plant. Lima beans and soy beans contain multiple inhibitors. These differ from storage proteins.

Tannins can cause poisoning in cattle.


Protease inhibitors

Protease inhibitors stop digestive enzymes that work on proteins.

Legume seeds contain Kunitz STI protease inhibitor. The levels can be reduced by cooking.Gilani GS, Cockell KA, Sepehr E (2005). "Effects of antinutritional factors on protein digestibility and amino acid availability in foods"

Wheat amylase trypsin inhibitors can drive intestinal inflammation, these also present in amaranth, barley, lentils, quinoa, rice, rye, soy.Source 1, Source 2

Storage proteins?

Gluten has effects on metabolism.


Plants mimic the communication of insects, to cause behavioral antagonism.

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