The composition of the raw legume Phaseolus vulgaris L. var. athropurpurea (PhVa) and its effects on the metabolism of young growing rats have been evaluated. The levels of protein, unsaturated fatty acids, carbohydrate, fibre and bioactive factors present in PhVa were comparable with those in other Phaseolus vulgaris varieties. However, the lectins of PhVa were predominantly of the leucoagglutinating type, and concentrated in the albumin protein fraction. Rats fed a diet (110 g total protein, 16·0 M/g) in which PhVa meal provided about half of the protein excreted high levels of N in faeces and urine, and grew more slowly, than rats fed a high-quality control diet (ad libitum or pair-fed). Small intestine, large intestine and pancreas weights were increased (by almost 100 %, P<0·05), whilst skeletal muscle, thymus and spleen weights were reduced. Blood insulin 16·20 v. 0·50 m/, P<0·05, thyroxine, glucose, protein (60·5 v. 48·3 /, P<0·05) and LDL-cholesterol were lowered, whilst glucagon (155·3 v. 185·4 n/, P<0·05), triiodothyronine and urea were elevated, as were urinary urea, creatinine and glucose. These changes in the local (gut) and systemic metabolism of rats were probably mediated primarily by lectins in PhVa, which were concentrated in the albumin protein fraction, whereas in many other Phaseolus vulgaris lines they are distributed across the globulin and albumin fractions.