Monday, January 31, 2011

The Buzz Around Resistant Starch

Over the past few weeks I've seen this idea of "Resistant Starch, RS" in a variety of places - a friend at the gym told me that they saw it on TV and Rachel Ray was talking about how amazing Resistant Starch is, Health Magazine's Carb Lover's diet is based on the concept of RS, and then another friend sent me this Yahoo article, 8 reasons carbs can help you lose weight. I read through it and was appalled, here are the 8 reasons and my take on them.

1. Eating carbs makes you thin for life - they cite research that "the slimmest people also ate the most carbs, and the chubbiest ate the least"  There are no facts at all on how this study was set up, I don't trust it.

2. Carbs fill you up - they claim carbs are an appetite supressant, I don't agree.  Fat and Protein have much higher saitey and trigger leptin, the hormone that tells your brain that you're full.

3. Carbs curb your hunger - "According to researchers, when dieters are taken off a low-carb diet and shifted them to an approach that includes generous amounts of fiber and Resistant Starch foods, something wonderful happens: Within two days, the dieters' cravings go away" -- I don't even know where to start with this, what cravings, how low carb are the dieters, really 2 days and cravings go away - no credibility here.

4. Carbs control blood sugar and diabetes - Um no, controlling your blood sugar controls insulin which relates to decreased insulin sensitivty (this is bad).  The less insulin sensitive you are, the higher your risk of type 2 diabetes.  Fat and Protein have a much lower impact on blood sugar than carbs do and do not contribute to blood sugar spikes -- therefore not negatively impacting insulin sensitivity. So I don't agree that carbs can control your blood sugar or diabetes - since they cause decreased insulin sensitivity and blood sugar spikes.

5. Carbs speed up metabolism - article claims that RS speeds metabolism by not depleting muscle mass, but protein is the real muscle builder in your body so not sure about this claim, I don't think they have much to base this statement on.

6. Carbs blast belly fat - carbs are stored as fat when eaten in excess of immediate energy needs (hint this is easy to do when eating large amounts of carbs).  Belly or Abdominal fat specifically is also sepcifically a stress/cortisol issue which doesn't really tie back to carbs at all, I don't agree with this one either.

7. Carbs keep you satisfied - calories keep you satisfied, the longer your body takes to digest them, the longer your brain recieves the signals that you are full.  Protein and Fat start to be digested in the small intestine, carbohydrates start the digestion process in your mouth (with salvia), which do you think keeps you satisfied longer?

8. Carbs make you feel good about you! - no scientific reasoning behind this one, I'm not sure about you but I personally don't derive self worth from food.

Reading this article was the last straw and it motivated me to look into what the heck is resistant starch anyway.  I Googled resistant starch and found what appears to be the primary website here.  The appearance of RS in the healthy buzz reminded me of a conversation that I just had with another Paleo eater who said, when you look around the lunch room the thing is that people THINK they are eating healthy, they THINK they are making good choices - it's a shame that they don't know any better.  So why do people think that eating low fat, processed foods or foods that contain RS are healthy?  Its because of articles like this one, and all of the media hype - articles and news blurbs that say "the latest research shows..."  I used to read and follow all of the hype, but now since learning about what your body actually does with food when you put it into your body, I can read through an article or healthy recommendation and immediately identify what has some truth, what is not true, and what I should maybe do some more research on.  Unfortunately your average person that isn't geeked out on nutrition doesn't knwo any better and just goes with what they see in magazines and articles that are supposed to help them be more healthy.  So that begs the question, Is eating Paleo a fad too?  It could be, but if you go to the core of what Paleo is, it's telling you to eat REAL, WHOLE foods and to minimized processed foods and sugar.  Is that really THAT crazy of an idea?  Things like "Restitant Starch" are just another way to make more money by food companies, because you want to eat carbs since they are broken down to sugar in your body and at the end of the day most Americans are addicted to them.   When was the last time you saw an advertisement for broccoli or brussel sprouts or grass-fed meat and pastured eggs?
One more strike against the Resistant Starch trend comes directly from the Resistant Starch website "About" page:

Currently, there is only one commercially-available natural resistant starch from corn on the market – Hi-maize. This natural fiber made from corn can be added to breads, cereals, pasta, nutrition bars and more.

Does that raise the needle on the BS meter at all for anyone else but me?  The site is saying that RS is a man-made (read processed) product and it comes from corn - food manufaturers can make money off of this!  This sounds like wacky food science and a clever way to make money to me by adding this to foods that people want to eat but know aren't that good for them.  At the end of the day when you take in carbohydrates your body breaks them down into sugars - glucose and fructose.  Glucose is used by the body for immediate energy needs and anything that is not used is captured by all the insulin that was released to deal with the glucose and stored away as fat for later energy use.  Fructose, well you can read my post on that.  The problem is when you are constantly flooding your body with carbohydrates your body never goes into it's stored reserves; therefore, you add body fat from the carbohydrates each time you eat more carbohydrate than your body can immediately use. 

Another reason to follow the resistant starch diet is mentioned at the beginning of the About Page, citing the concern over America's lack of fiber in today's diets.
In fact, most people could significantly increase their current fiber intake and still not reach the recommended targets of between 25 grams (for women) and 38 grams (for men) each day. 
If you are eating lots of processed foods and little fruits and veggies than I guess you might not be achieving your fiber recommendations each day.  Its funny how few people realize that you can get fiber from places other than whole grains.  Let's take a look at the fiber amounts in my normal Paleo-based meals - here is what I ate today for breakfast and lunch, I used the Web MD Fiber meter for my fiber measurements.

2.5 eggs scrambled with about 4oz of spinach -- (spinach) 2.5g
2 slices of nitrate free bacon
1/4 avocado -- 4.1g 
6 oz V8 Juice -- 1.5g fiber

1.5 cups homemade broccoli soup -- 6g
1/2 red bell pepper -- 1.6g
1/2 cup of cut carrots -- 1.75g
handful of macademia nuts -- 2g
3 grape tomatoes
1/4 avocado -- 4.1g
1 chicken sausage
1/2 orange -- 3.5g

Total Fiber by 2:30pm ~27g of fiber (and I still have a snack and dinner to add to that).  Looks like I'm good for my "recommended" fiber intake.  You can achieve all fiber, vitamin, and mineral recommendations by eating whole and real food - any food that says its fortified really means that they stripped all of the good stuff out and have now added a few things back in. 

So if you want to buy into the Resistant Starch idea, that's your own perogative.  Personally after looking into it, I think its just another way for food companies to make money and to make people feel better about eating things that they know are not good for them.


  1. "eating carbs make you thin for life" - holy propoganda Batman!

  2. Jack LaLanne's quote sums up what I think about RS - "If man made it, don't eat it".


  3. After skimming a few points you made about carbohydrates I really question some of your educational background in macronutrients

  4. @Anonymous I'm interested to see which points you find contentious...and to learn what kind of educational background you have in marcronutrients

  5. You are confusing resistant starch with all the other starches out there. And no, resistant starch doesn't have to be purchased as a brand-named ingredient. Study up on this please before lumping in resistant starch with other starches. Shees.