Revisiting Resistant Starch: Part One

I should file my next few posts under Stuff I Got Wrong, or at least Stuff I Wish I Hadn’t Ignored.  One is resistant starch.  The other is “safe starch” as prescribed in Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet.  Revisiting resistant starch led to me to revisit safe starch, so I’ll start with resistant starch.

I dismissed resistant starch because of how it came to my attention.  Some articles hit the media praising resistant starch as a means of controlling blood sugar.  Reading those articles, it was clear to me that resistant starch was being promoted by the makers of high-maize resistant starch – an industrial corn product.  When I looked up the studies mentioned in the articles, it turned out researchers had replaced white flour with high-maize resistant starch in baked goods, and lo and behold, people who ate the resistant-starch versions ended up with lower blood sugar.

So it looked like the “Whole grains are good for you!” story all over again:  replace total crap with less-than-total crap, and people have better health outcomes.  That doesn’t mean less-than-total crap is good for you.  If you want to convince me resistant starch lowers blood sugar, show me the studies where it’s added to the diet, not used to replace white flour.

Oops.

Turns out those studies exist and have been around for decades.  I only became aware of that after Richard Nikoley took up the subject of resistant starch with a vengeance on his Free The Animal blog.  He’s become so passionate about the subject, he created a permanent, top-level page on the blog called A Resistant Starch Primer for Newbies.

That page includes this brief video, which offers a clear explanation of what resistant starch is, so give it a look:

Mark Sisson also wrote a nice summary of the benefits of resistant starch on Mark’s Daily Apple.

The bottom line is that despite being labeled as “starch,” resistant starch doesn’t turn to glucose in your body.  It resists digestion (thus the term) until it reaches your colon, where it feeds your gut bacteria – and that’s where the benefits kick in.  The good gut bacteria digest the resistant starch and release butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid, as a result.  Yup, eating a “starch” produces good fats in your colon.

And although the exact biological mechanism isn’t known (at least according to the research I’ve read), something about the process increases insulin sensitivity and leads to lower blood sugar, both before and after meals.  Let’s see … glucose control, insulin control, gut health … isn’t that what drew most of us to a low-carb paleo diet in the first place?

So after Nikoley had posted enough articles to overcome my resistance to the subject of resistant starch, I finally ordered some Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch, which is almost pure resistant starch, and started experimenting.  (I’ve since learned I can just buy the stuff at our local Whole Foods.)

I started out with two tablespoons per day and didn’t experience any of the explosive-gas problems some people reported on Nikoley’s blog, so I upped it to four.  I just stir it into some warm water (warning:  hot water will turn it into starch, not resistant starch) and drink it.

Like many of Nikoley’s readers, I found that my fasting glucose dropped, from around 100 in the morning to around 90.  Not bad, but the more impressive result has been post-meal glucose levels.  As an experiment, I ate about 3/4 cup of white rice without consuming any resistant starch for the preceeding 24 hours.  My glucose peaked at 150.  The next day, I swallowed two tablespoons of resistant starch around 10:00 AM and consumed the same amount of rice around noon.  This time my glucose peaked at 118 and dropped to 95 an hour later.  In another experiment, I pre-loaded with resistant starch and then had a baked potato with dinner.  My glucose peaked at 126.  Lots of Free the Animal readers have reported similar results.

I was early in the experimenting phase when Jimmy Moore invited me to participate in the 100th episode of Low-Carb Conversations, so that’s what I talked about:  resistant starch.  My part begins at around 1:27:00 into the episode.

Jimmy, in fact, has invited Richard Nikoley to host The Livin’ La Vida Low Carb show later this month and interview his partners in crime about resistant starch.  The partners are Tim “Tatertot” Steele and Grace Liu, who together with Nikoley are writing a book on the subject.

I enjoy podcasts, but I’m also a fan of written interviews, so I asked all three of them if I could submit a long list of questions, and they graciously agreed.  You’re probably familiar with Nikoley already.  Here are brief bios on Steele and Liu before we get to the Q & A:

Tim Steele lives in the small town of North Pole, Alaska where he is the electrical systems supervisor of a local hospital.  He retired from the Air Force in 2004 after 21 years of service as an electronics technician and combat engineer. In his spare time he hunts, fishes, gardens, and studies health and food science for simple solutions to modern problems.

Grace Liu, PharmD, AFMCP, is a functional medicine practitioner with an international functional medicine practice. In addition to hormone and digestive disorders, her clinical areas of interest are autoimmune disorders, diabesity, heart disease, cancer prevention, toxins, and nutrition. As science editor, she has an upcoming book being published on evolution, the gut microbiota and how to fuel it.  She also writes about gut health and other topics on her AnimalPharm blog.

On to the interview.  Like I said, I asked a lot of questions and the answers are very comprehensive, so I’ll post this in two or three parts.

Fat Head: Richard, you’ve become known as the resistant-starch blogger in the past year or so.  In fact, most of your posts recently fall into one of three categories:  1) resistant starch, 2) people who piss me off, and 3) people who piss me off about resistant starch.

Richard: Heh, never really thought of it that way but it does have a nice ring to it. I suppose I might add to that, those entrenched about anything, where it becomes more about the entrenchment than whether it still makes complete sense.  I’d use the word iconoclastic, but I think that’s something others call you and not something you call yourself — like being humble, or something. One just doesn’t say, “I’m so humble.”

Fat Head: True, if you call yourself humble, people tend not to believe you, especially if you’re proud of being humble.  Anyway, as you’ve pointed out on your blog, research pointing to possible benefits of resistant starch has been around for 30 years.  There was a bit of buzz about resistant starch three years ago, but since the articles hitting the media were about replacing white flour with high-maize resistant starch, most of us in the low-carb camp dismissed it as an attempt to sell more corn products.  So what prompted you to take such a passionate interest in the subject last year?

Richard: It was also dismissed out of hand because it had the word “starch” in it, and but for Paul Jaminet — who was only coming online around that time as I recall — we’d probably still be entrenched against starch. One prominent member of the overall community even called resistant starch an “anti-nutrient,” and even though he has since admitted he was unaware of it and has expressed a willingness to look at it again, that post from way back was referenced dozens of times in various forums and comment threads all over as justification to not even bother looking.

I think that’s a bad thing and I hope I never see anything anywhere like “Well, Richard (or Tim, or Grace) said this, so that settles it for me.”  Nobody deserves to be taken as an authority like that.  On the other hand, take a guy like Mark Sisson who, in his Definitive Guide on Resistant Starch, just plain comes out and admits he was wrong and regrets not taking a harder look.

As for me, RS didn’t cross my radar back then, for whatever reason. I was probably too busy soaking in ice cold water whilst engaging in Internet warfare or something, and when at war, things get serious in a hurry.  Pansy stuff like “resistant starch” just isn’t going to cross the attention threshold.

So, when I did begin blogging about this last April — so a year ago now, or nearly 100 blog posts and over 10,000 comments ago — it was a completely new thing for me. Tim Steele, a.k.a. “Tatertot,” brought it to me and we’d just had a pretty good run with “the potato hack,” where people were essentially doing Chis Voigt’s “20-Potatoes-a-Day” deal and virtually everyone was dropping weight very rapidly.

I tried it but stopped at about a week or so. I happen to love potatoes and don’t want that to ever change. But it was very instructive and once again, caused me to begin questioning entrenched “wisdom.” So Tim had creds with me and I heard him out. He shot me enough info to take it seriously, and there was this point where I thought that if half of this stuff is true, it’s going to be huge; and moreover, this goes way beyond resistant starch. This is about the human gut biome, so you have these news things you’re seeing every day and you have all these researchers studying resistant starch, but for the purposes of better livestock, or to help a big company get their franken-RS product into every baked good on the planet — but not for gut health, but because it’ll essentially lower GI and cause 1% fewer cases of diabetes, colo-rectal cancer, or both, or something.

But I knew the Ancestral community had a very good appreciation for gut health, was paying attention, knew why it was important, had the evolutionary context in terms of probiotics and prebiotics, and really, we’re just looking at another in a set of prebiotics. All I had to do was overcome the hurdle of the “S-word.” And that was tough. We were dismissed essentially by everyone. Ridiculed, etc. But of course, ridicule is like high-octane fuel for a true iconoclast…oops, there I go again, being all humble.

Fat Head: We appreciate your humility.  For those who don’t already know, what is resistant starch?  How is it different from other starches?

Tim: Normally when we think of “starch,” we think of the blood-glucose spiking stuff that is one step away from pure sugar.  The “bad calories” of Good Calories, Bad Calories fame.  Of course, Paul Jaminet made some of the starches “safe” for us in his Perfect Health Diet, but resistant starch is something entirely different.  RS was discovered in the ‘80s when scientists were trying to measure fiber in food.  Under microscopic examination of the effluent of human and animal small intestines, they kept finding a confounding element that they weren’t expecting—undigested starch granules.  They termed these “resistant starch.”  Resistant in this case meaning resistant to enzymes that digest food.

Grace: During my schooling and training for diabetes education, no one was aware of resistant starch or how it blunts blood sugar increases just as other fibers do — psyllium, pectin, hemicellulose, and oligosaccharides.  Resistant starch is consumed by the vast majority of the ‘core members’ of the gut microbes. It is a core fuel for the core gut bugs. The evolutionary purposes of fiber and resistant starch may be threefold:  1) store carbohydrate energy from the sun and photosynthesis, 2) provide structure, and 3) act as anti-freeze and stress protectors to safeguard the plant and ‘plant babies’ against environmental extremes such as frost, acid, moisture, dryness, mold/fungi, pests, and pathogens.

What I mean by plant ‘babies’ are the progeny that contain genetic material that will be passed on to the next generation of plants: tubers, underground storage organs, legumes, grass grains, fruits, and seeds and nuts. All of these contain some degree or a lot of RS and oligosaccharides that resistant human digestion. By shielding the genetic material, the fiber and RS buffered and protected the tuber, root, legume and grain from freezing and bursting open. Plants and microbial bugs were here on Earth billions of years long before Homo sapiens emerged. It is actually speculated that the extreme Ice Ages are what largely shaped the carbohydrate and fiber content in plants and their survival. To us mammals, the vast majority of these carbohydrates are indigestible; however, for the gut critters, these carbs are their favorite feasts and fuel. Our co-evolution was inseparable. Now, perhaps our de-evolution is imminent because we are suspiciously lacking our co-evolved microbial appendages. Antibiotic over-utilization, C-sections, and phobic attempts to be sterile and super-sanitary has perhaps amputated our collective guts.

Resistant starch will not raise blood glucose, unlike starch. It behaves like other fiber. The plants that have more RS also have more protein (again protecting and nourishing future ‘plant babies’) and a lower glycemic index. All of these contribute to a lower impact on blood sugars.

Fat Head: If resistant starch isn’t digested and converted to glucose, what happens to it?

Tim: Resistant starch ends up in the large intestine where it gets fermented by gut bugs into fat (short chain fatty acids=SCFA). Sounds simple, but it’s anything but! RS is the substrate for fermentation by the prime gut bacterial players, but one of the few fibers that require numerous ‘actors’ to degrade it into its final end stages. The gut is truly an ecosystem and the apex predators take first dibs on the prime rib, then the bottom feeders and scavengers get their turns eventually. The byproducts of all these interactions feed other microbes and create an entirely different structure in the gut than when simpler fibers are eaten. Inulin, legume oligosaccharides, and glucomannan are other fibers that behave the same way. The fibers found in human breast milk (Human Milk Oligosaccharides or HMOs) also share this trait. Unfortunately, when we are weaned we usually never get a good taste of these type prebiotics again, except for the tiny bits found in a few foods and snacks.

Richard: What’s cool beyond this is that we live mostly in a symbiotic relationship with the vast majority of these gut microorganisms. Keep in mind we’re talking big numbers, 100 trillion to our 10 trillion human cells. About the size of a football if packed together. People can have up to about 1,000 different species, and while the human genome is comprised of about 25,000 genes, the total genome of all the different microbial lines in our gut are about 3 million, over 100 times more. There’s more. A human generation is about 30 years while on average, bacteria go through 6 generations in a day, and they’ve been evolving for 2 billion years longer than we have.

It makes you wonder in a chicken or egg kinda way, are we just a nice house that bacteria built for themselves? And then it takes on sci-fi alien invasion proportions when you consider that via the brain-gut connection—with more neurons outside the brain than anything, including the spinal cord—it influences behavior, mood, sleep, satiety and more. I’m just guessing, but I’ll throw out there that you want to keep your mind-control aliens well fed and content.

Fat Head: If we’re talking about NSA mind-control aliens, I’d rather keep them starved and cranky, but I see your point.

Grace: It’s great you bring up breast milk, Tim! Since the dawn of breasts and breast milk, babies have received carbs (lactose) and over 100 oligosaccharides (fiber) from mom’s milk. The lactose is for the baby, but the fiber feeds the neonate’s burgeoning societies of microbes colonizing its gut and other organs. Another misconception about breast milk was recently busted as well. Mom’s breast milk contains over 700 species of probiotics (entering the mammary glands via the gut lymph circulation). On Day One of life, our superorganism symbiosis starts. Richard loves the cyborg and Matrix motifs, and rightly so!

Fat Head: “The Dawn of Breasts” sounds like a movie I might have rented when I was single, but I digress.  So as counter-intuitive as it sounds, when we consume resistant starch, the stuff is converted to short-chain fatty acids in our colons.  What happens to those fatty acids?  Do we burn them for energy, or do they mostly feed our gut bacteria?

Grace: The SCFAs made are butyrate, propionate (metabolized by the liver) and acetate (muscle, kidney, heart and brain). Approximately 30% of butyrate is burned for host energy and the remaining 70% is rapidly absorbed to feed the intestinal cells, which are as enormous in surface area as that of a tennis court. The gut also houses a hidden brain which is innervated by over 100 million neurons, bigger than our spinal cord. Additionally the entire gastrointestinal tube is lined by immune cells; therefore, the gut is one long lymphoid organ. For an extremely large and often overlooked organ, studies demonstrate what happens when it is not properly fueled or fed. In sterile, germ-free animals, their immunity and immune organs are blunted and intestinal organs atrophied when the gut bugs are absent.

Richard: Another thing to keep in mind is that you basically have three types of these critters:  1) the symbionts, i.e., we cut a deal and it’s win-win, 2) the commensals, those who do nothing for us, but don’t harm us, either, and 3)  the parasites or pathogens. The commensals are an interesting lot, because while they may not do anything directly for us and so don’t fit technically the definition of symbiosis, some do stuff for the symbionts who do, such as produce stuff they need to eat.

Keeping the whole thing in balance by feeding them fermentable fibers, primarily, is the ideal way to keep the pathogens in check. It’s chemical warfare down there, and it’s far better to have a specifically targeted antibiotic, manufactured in a 3 billion-year-old chemical plant, than to have to resort to carpet bombing or nuking the whole thing with broad spectrum antibiotics.

Tim: The end-result with the biggest impact does seem to be the creation of SCFAs, especially butyrate.  A colon flooded with butyrate has a lower pH and healthier colonocytes.  The lowered pH creates an environment that favors beneficial over pathogenic microbes and the increased butyrate serves as fuel for the special cells that line the colon.  When these cells are fueled by butyrate, they behave normally, self-destructing when they need to and regrowing as they should.  Colonocytes can also run off glucose, but when fueled by glucose, they behave completely differently.  They don’t self-destruct and they are at higher risk for cancer.  A low carb/high fat diet for you is a low fat/high carb diet for your gut.

Fat Head: When the makers of high-maize resistant starch sent out press releases announcing that resistant starch doesn’t raise glucose levels, my thought was “Whoop-de-do.  Neither does cardboard, but that doesn’t mean eating it will improve my health.”  But resistant starch doesn’t just have a neutral effect on blood glucose; it seems to have actual positive effects.  Describe what you’ve heard from people about how resistant starch affects their fasting blood sugar levels.

Tim: If you replace 50% of the wheat in white bread with sawdust, the glycemic index will be cut in half! — this is how most people read those reports.  But with RS, it’s a bit different.  Some of the immediate blunting of blood-sugar spikes is definitely from the same action as in the sawdust and cardboard analogies, but RS is also acting as a powerful prebiotic in your large intestine, making long-term changes that affect hormones that stimulate insulin among others.  Usually within a few days, many people who have type 2 diabetes or prediabetes notice lower fasting blood glucose in the morning and post-prandial spikes that are lower than normal after a carby meal.

Some really neat experiments were done by Steve Cooksey (the Diabetes Warrior) involving a dose of RS before exercising, and he clearly demonstrates that RS increased his insulin sensitivity while exercising — which is something that diabetics struggle with continuously.  RS has been shown to increase whole body insulin sensitivity … that’s huge!

Richard: For me personally, RS alone wasn’t enough to get me all the way there. For some low carbers, even clinically diabetic ones, RS just works like a champ, right off. Steve Cooksey, as Tim mentioned, is one of those. Then there are others for whom it seemingly does nothing, or works for a while then nothing. I was in the middle. So, instead of 110-120 fasting, it brought me to 100-110. And in terms of post meal, I was seeing spikes maybe 20 points less but still in the 140-160 range, often.

But I had been so used to eating low carb so much of the time that it was difficult, and I had to really force myself to eat the rice, potatoes or legumes with almost every meal. As it turns out, I now prefer a bowl of my pinto beans with a couple of over-easy eggs on top to my bacon and eggs; and anyway, I was getting pretty tired of the most Paleo food on the planet: bacon. It began tasting like a salt lick to me (just guessing) a long time ago, but I digress. So, yeah, some days it’s the beans and eggs, some days “refried wok potatoes” from previously baked and tossed in the fridge to form retrograde RS that resists degradation with mild reheating.

Long story short, by getting my starchy carbs (“safe” in every sense) up to the 100-200 range, maybe 150 average, BANG!, my BG normalized, both in terms of fasting and post meal. I understand that this is hugely inconvenient for a lot of folks to hear, entrenched in low carb doctrines, but it is nonetheless true, and I’m far from the only one to report it.

Grace: What is impressive to me is how RS and other fibers improve insulin sensitivity anecdotally and in clinical trials. We have seen a huge number of improvements in fasting BGs reported at Free the Animal. If a person has noticed fasting BGs > 125 mg/dl in the mornings, then with consumption of  RS, they may report that their fasting glucoses return to the 80s range. Many of these folks at FTA noticed trending of higher glucose readings the longer that they were adapted to chronic VLC. With no other changes to diet, they noted that after eating RS, their BGs began to shift downwards. It’s not uncommon to see high fasting sugars in regards to VLC diets. It is related to normal feedback mechanisms of the body to preserve circulating glucose for the high energy organs — liver, brain and muscles — by ratcheting up insulin resistance in peripheral tissues. Under perceived starvation, insulin resistance can occur at even the muscle level — exactly where you don’t want it.  If one is trying to lose body fat, this physiological insulin resistance may strongly hinder your efforts. The best ways to improve insulin sensitivity in my opinion is to not starve insulin-regulating organs of what they need (gut, fiber + RS; muscles, carbs) and use the organs that use insulin — muscles. Studies demonstrate that weight loss can depend on the glycemic index of diet, but even more predominantly the insulin-resistant status of the individual.

Fat Head: People are also reporting that if they consume resistant starch, they get less of a rise in glucose levels after eating starchy foods like beans or rice or potatoes.  Is there a timing issue involved?  Do we need to consume resistant starch shortly before consuming other starches for that blunting effect to occur?

Richard: It was actually first called “the lentil effect” because they noted that legumes yielded less of a spike in glucose than one would expect for the amount of carbohydrate ingested, and that the blunting persisted, often into the next day, for other starches or sugars a person ate. They had unwittingly discovered what RS and other fermentable fibers do when the gut critters get fed.

Tim: What you are referring to is the “second-meal effect.” This has been studied for many years and is a normal part of our physiology.  When you embark on a diet that incorporates RS at every meal or at least every day, then every meal is a ‘second meal’ and you see long term reductions in HgbA1C as well as postprandial glucose spikes.

Grace: This effect is one of the coolest side benefits. It appears to last 2-4 hours depending on the study. Many other fibers like glucomannan, psyllium and pectin have it as well. In a way it provides even further shielding from potential high-glucose damage, because one study demonstrated for a high glycemic meal with sufficient fiber and resistant starch, glucose tolerance was maintained at the next meal. Ultimately what impacts the second meal effect is the fermentability of the indigestible carbohydrates and fiber, and this is contigent upon the right species being located in the gut, which ultimately do the magic.

Fat Head: Do researchers understand how resistant starch ends up lowering glucose levels?  What’s the mechanism?

Tim: Well, it’s not so much that it lowers glucose, it’s more about increasing insulin sensitivity.  Remember all those hormones that people have been talking about…Peptide YY, Glucagon-like Peptide-1, Ghrelin, and Leptin?  These are all modulated by the microbes in your gut.  When the right microbes are present and they are being fed enough fermentable fiber such as RS, they start producing these hormones that act together with them to increase insulin sensitivity.

Grace: In the gut, pancreas and immune system are fatty acid receptors called GPRs 41 and 43. The selective fats that bind these are the SCFAs (butyrate, etc.) made from the gut microbes metabolizing RS, oligosaccharides and other indigestible complex carbohydrates.

When GPR41/43 are activated by butyrate, they decrease body fat, increase satiety (PYY), increase insulin sensitivity and other anti-diabetic effects, reduce inflammation, power immunity, suppress and shrink cancer cells, divert oxidative DNA damage, maintain tight barrier and gut function, and many other beneficial host activities. We even double our butyrate from the gut microbiota with exercise.

Butyrate from microbial production also binds the ketone receptors known as GPR109a (formerly known as HM74A in humans and PUMA-G in animals). This was a surprising and recent discovery. I suspected butyrate would bind it, but no confirmatory studies occurred until recently. It makes sense, no? We are cyborgs and controlled in symbiosis with our microbes. Microbes maketh who we are and what we burn and store. Earlier the research showed only niacin (vitamin B3), nicotinic acid, and ketone bodies could bind HM74A with fidelity and duration. Therefore many of the health benefits that short-term ketosis affords overlaps with what is achieved by optimal gut health. This is what I observe clinically as well as anecdotally at my blog Animal Pharm and Richard’s blog Free the Animal.

Tim: Thanks, Grace…you had to go there didn’t you?  As if this stuff isn’t boring enough!  Now you kind of see our problem, Tom: this stuff is just so complex that everyone’s eyes sort of glaze over when we talk about the magic of RS.  These GPRs that Grace talks about are an incredible piece of the puzzle, but just so hard to work into conversation or even write about.  GPR stands for G Protein-coupled Receptors (the G doesn’t even seem to stand for anything).  And, we haven’t even mentioned Peyer’s patches, Treg cells, and defensins!  Seriously, you could write an entire book on the deep science of RS. People spend their entire lives studying it, but sometimes it’s best if we answer questions like this with, “It just works…who cares how?”

Okay, I admit it:  Tim’s right — my eyes did glaze over a bit with all the chemical names.  I don’t like words without vowels.  But I agree … if it works, it works.  So far it’s working nicely for me.

More Q & A in my next post.  We have a ways to go yet.


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173 thoughts on “Revisiting Resistant Starch: Part One

  1. Clint

    Hi Tom,
    I first heard of resistant starch on a subscribed newsletter from Mark Sisson, I kinda blew it off because it didn’t make sense to me.
    My roommate got the same newsletter and was excited about, so in an experiment, I ate 1 cup of hot rice with nothing else (after a 12 hour fast), 2 hrs later checked my glucose level and it was pushing 130.
    I did the same thing the next morning except with the left over cold rice, my glucose level barely moved.
    I don’t know, it seemed to work, I may enjoy homemade (cold) rice again with my crock pot pork again.

    Cooking and then cooling converts much of the starch to resistant starch, as Richard has explained on his blog. If I want a potato for dinner the next day, I’ll try to remember to cook it before bed and put it in the fridge. You can rewarm it without breaking down the resistant starch.

    1. Firebird7478

      Now they have those potato pockets that look like gloves that you stuff the potato into and microwave it. The pocket allows the potato to cook evenly. For some reason lately, I have been thinking about adding at least sweet potatoes back into my diet once a week or so. Interesting stuff. I need to re-read this.

      I started adding sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet quite awhile ago. I didn’t feel any need to be on a very-low-carb or ketogenic diet all the time — after all, I lost weight during my fast-food experiment while consuming around 100 grams of carbs per day. Now I’m moving more towards the Perfect Health Diet, which is still low-carb, high-fat.

      1. Firebird7478

        Has that triggered a weight gain/loss or are you maintaining weight with the starches added back?

        Also, I am guessing that RS makes it okay to use the “olive oil” mayos that use potato starch as a thickener. That’s the main reason I’ve been avoiding it, and I miss my egg salad!

        I haven’t gained or lost any weight. Keep in mind we’re talking about 100 or so total grams of carbohydrate per day, which is what I consumed on my Fat Head fast-food diet.

        Funny you should mention the mayo. Last time I made mayo at home, I added some potato starch to thicken it. Worked quite nicely.

  2. Tate

    Oh man are you going to get backlash for this post! One thing that has been bothering me about all of this about RS, and you might address it later, but I couldn’t find anything about it on the various websites listed above: So, all of these bloggers are pushing probiotics with the RS. It makes sense, if you are eating the RS, but don’ t have the right bacteria, then you are presenting food to “empty cages” and won’t get the touted results. But why would you have to continue taking the probiotics? Once the “cages are full”, and you continue to feed them, wouldn’t they stay full? So are the probiotics the wrong bacteria? The wrong mix? Are some people so damaged they are no longer capable of carrying the right mix? The potato starch is cheap, and so is other fiber supplements to a lesser extent. Also, you could potentially get the RS and fiber through diet (I just don’t like eating that volume of greens and chilled potato/rice everyday). But the probiotics are expensive. If it is only once, then it would make sense, but not if you have to continue consuming the probiotics. This is suspicious to me.

    I would suspect that once you’ve rebuilt your supply of gut bacteria, you’re good to go for awhile. Mark Sisson and others have pointed out, however, that early humans ended up consuming soil-based bacteria on a regular basis by virtue of grabbing and eating food from the ground, and also just by eating food while their hands were dirty. So in our super-sterile food environment, maybe some regular supplementation with soil-based probiotics is a good idea.

  3. Clint

    Hi Tom,
    I first heard of resistant starch on a subscribed newsletter from Mark Sisson, I kinda blew it off because it didn’t make sense to me.
    My roommate got the same newsletter and was excited about, so in an experiment, I ate 1 cup of hot rice with nothing else (after a 12 hour fast), 2 hrs later checked my glucose level and it was pushing 130.
    I did the same thing the next morning except with the left over cold rice, my glucose level barely moved.
    I don’t know, it seemed to work, I may enjoy homemade (cold) rice again with my crock pot pork again.

    Cooking and then cooling converts much of the starch to resistant starch, as Richard has explained on his blog. If I want a potato for dinner the next day, I’ll try to remember to cook it before bed and put it in the fridge. You can rewarm it without breaking down the resistant starch.

    1. Firebird7478

      Now they have those potato pockets that look like gloves that you stuff the potato into and microwave it. The pocket allows the potato to cook evenly. For some reason lately, I have been thinking about adding at least sweet potatoes back into my diet once a week or so. Interesting stuff. I need to re-read this.

      I started adding sweet potatoes and squashes back into my diet quite awhile ago. I didn’t feel any need to be on a very-low-carb or ketogenic diet all the time — after all, I lost weight during my fast-food experiment while consuming around 100 grams of carbs per day. Now I’m moving more towards the Perfect Health Diet, which is still low-carb, high-fat.

      1. Firebird7478

        Has that triggered a weight gain/loss or are you maintaining weight with the starches added back?

        Also, I am guessing that RS makes it okay to use the “olive oil” mayos that use potato starch as a thickener. That’s the main reason I’ve been avoiding it, and I miss my egg salad!

        I haven’t gained or lost any weight. Keep in mind we’re talking about 100 or so total grams of carbohydrate per day, which is what I consumed on my Fat Head fast-food diet.

        Funny you should mention the mayo. Last time I made mayo at home, I added some potato starch to thicken it. Worked quite nicely.

  4. Jana

    How RS are described reminds me of Barry Groves’ presentation Homo Carnivorus that he did for the Wise Traditions conference (I think back in 2011). I found a video of just the slide show without the speech on youtube: http://youtu.be/ox0cd4HLh2Y Anyways, Barry Groves discusses how herbivors are hind gut digesters and how the carbohydrates the herbivors consume are fermented in the gut and converted into fatty acids.

    If you go to the Weston A Price foundation website you can find the video of his full presentation in the video tab and go to the conference link. It’s fascinating stuff.

    Yup, turns out gorillas are on a high-fat diet. Those fibrous plants they chew all day are converted to short-chain fatty acids in their guts.

  5. Gilana

    Following this series closely, Tom. Have Mark’s and Richard’s overview pages open (again), and thinking (again) about opening up that bag of Bob’s Red Mill potato starch I bought several months back. This is really exciting stuff. I have so many issues that are pertinent to me only, and my brain keeps coming up with “what ifs.” But it’s time to just get started.

    Richard’s gang recommends starting small, 1 or 2 TB, and seeing how you do with it.

  6. Tate

    Oh man are you going to get backlash for this post! One thing that has been bothering me about all of this about RS, and you might address it later, but I couldn’t find anything about it on the various websites listed above: So, all of these bloggers are pushing probiotics with the RS. It makes sense, if you are eating the RS, but don’ t have the right bacteria, then you are presenting food to “empty cages” and won’t get the touted results. But why would you have to continue taking the probiotics? Once the “cages are full”, and you continue to feed them, wouldn’t they stay full? So are the probiotics the wrong bacteria? The wrong mix? Are some people so damaged they are no longer capable of carrying the right mix? The potato starch is cheap, and so is other fiber supplements to a lesser extent. Also, you could potentially get the RS and fiber through diet (I just don’t like eating that volume of greens and chilled potato/rice everyday). But the probiotics are expensive. If it is only once, then it would make sense, but not if you have to continue consuming the probiotics. This is suspicious to me.

    I would suspect that once you’ve rebuilt your supply of gut bacteria, you’re good to go for awhile. Mark Sisson and others have pointed out, however, that early humans ended up consuming soil-based bacteria on a regular basis by virtue of grabbing and eating food from the ground, and also just by eating food while their hands were dirty. So in our super-sterile food environment, maybe some regular supplementation with soil-based probiotics is a good idea.

  7. Jana

    How RS are described reminds me of Barry Groves’ presentation Homo Carnivorus that he did for the Wise Traditions conference (I think back in 2011). I found a video of just the slide show without the speech on youtube: http://youtu.be/ox0cd4HLh2Y Anyways, Barry Groves discusses how herbivors are hind gut digesters and how the carbohydrates the herbivors consume are fermented in the gut and converted into fatty acids.

    If you go to the Weston A Price foundation website you can find the video of his full presentation in the video tab and go to the conference link. It’s fascinating stuff.

    Yup, turns out gorillas are on a high-fat diet. Those fibrous plants they chew all day are converted to short-chain fatty acids in their guts.

  8. Sabine

    As a recovering diabetic on a high-fat/low-carb diet, my blood sugars are always around 90 around the clock. They never change much, even after meals.

  9. Damocles

    That might be the actual scientific reason why men gain weight when married.
    As bachelor, eating cold leftovers (rice).
    While later, getting a nice warm meal every day from wife. 😉

  10. Gilana

    Following this series closely, Tom. Have Mark’s and Richard’s overview pages open (again), and thinking (again) about opening up that bag of Bob’s Red Mill potato starch I bought several months back. This is really exciting stuff. I have so many issues that are pertinent to me only, and my brain keeps coming up with “what ifs.” But it’s time to just get started.

    Richard’s gang recommends starting small, 1 or 2 TB, and seeing how you do with it.

  11. Justin B

    Thank you, Tom, for visiting this topic. Had it not been for you, I probably would have never actually tried to learn about it, because “it just sounds wrong”. From the moment you mentioned it on Jimmy Moore’s show, I sought out research and articles on the stuff, and I believe that my health is much better for it. I had been adding back 2-3 potato-based meals/sides per week prior to this, just because it seemed to “just work”, in that it helped me re-lose those last 10 lbs, but I probably wouldn’t have understood how or why until you did. Thanks again! BTW, I’ve more recently upped it from 2-3 per week to about 4 or 5, and my weight has remained stable.

    I’ve been adding potatoes back into my diet as per Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet and haven’t gained any weight either. I try to remember to cook and cool them overnight.

    1. Firebird7478

      They say you can do this with white rice, too? Cook it then cool it to create RS? That would be excellent, especially for something like rice pudding (using protein powder for flavoring).

      Yup, works with rice too.

      1. Dave L

        I was thinking about how sushi is cold rice (resistant starch?) with a serving of vitamins (seaweed) and omega 3 fats (fish). Another reason to love California rolls?

  12. Damocles

    That might be the actual scientific reason why men gain weight when married.
    As bachelor, eating cold leftovers (rice).
    While later, getting a nice warm meal every day from wife. 😉

  13. Jan's Sushi Bar

    You can rewarm those cooled starches up to about 140 F without them degrading back into just plain old regular starch, if I’m not mistaken, so don’t get it too hot.

    It’s funny, somewhere in the last 4 years, I became a “paleo” food blogger even though I distanced myself from the label from the very beginning – I was just a food blogger before our diet changed (for the better) and I’m a food blogger now that the hardcore paleos, most of whom are newbies, are unsubscribing from my blog in droves. Apparently my rediscovered affection for legumes and sprouted quinoa makes me a heretic, even when I post links to Mark Sisson’s excellent article on RS, as well as Chris Kresser’s article about how lectins and phytates might actually have some benefit.

    Wait until I start posting about my adventures with homemade sourdough bread – which, when frozen and thawed, becomes a fair source of RS.

    I guess that makes you The Judean People’s Front — and a splitter.

  14. Wheatless Ellen

    Great article and interview, Tom! Kudos!

    One tiny comment on the way you are taking your potato starch: you said you are mixing it with warm water, but from what I’ve read at FTA, cold water would be better. My concern is that readers will gloss right over your caveat about the 140-degree threshold, and they will start mixing it into their bulletproof coffee, which would be a big no no! I stir mine into room temp water and have no trouble chugging it down. It can also be mixed with kefir, yogurt, and even room temp canned pumpkin, to which I add pumpkin pie spice and Z-sweet and sometimes MCT oil.

    Incidentally, I am a diabetic on insulin have been getting tremendous fasting bg since I started taking Bob’s Red Mill potato starch, the best I have ever had in the 20+ years since I was diagnosed.

    Good point, so everyone listen up: DO NOT HEAT THE POTATO STARCH. Go above 140 degrees, and that breaks it down into starch, not resistant starch. Warm means warm, not hot. By warm water, I mean not cold … it’s probably 80-90 degrees.

  15. Harold Aardsma

    Interesting stuff Tom. I am a LCHF eating type 2 diabetic, but recently I have been complaining to my wife that I don’t know what’s going on with my fasting BC numbers. I’m suffering from morning creep. This is certainly worth a try.

    Definitely worth a try in that case.

    1. Harold Aardsma

      I know a N=1 experiment of one day may not mean much but this morning glucose reading was a perfect 83.

  16. Kathy in Texas

    Thanks, Tom! This series and the comments to come are going to be really fun to follow. I actually have a couple of these RS products in the house and am looking forward to finding a way to incorporate them into my diet.

    I’ve mixed the potato starch into a yogurt-blueberry-protein shake. The stuff has almost no flavor, so it’s fine in a shake, just makes it thicker. I’ve also stirred into a mashed potato (warm, but not hot). Mostly, though, I just mix it in water and swallow it.

  17. whatever

    The big problem here for me is that to make the RS work, you need to have the “right” gut critters and they need to be healthy.

    But there’s no way to know if you have the good bugs or not. In fact, the science still can’t agree what the good bugs exactly are. So maybe you’re helping yourself out. . .or maybe you’re pushing yourself back toward weight gain, T2D & colon cancer.

    You just can’t know. Please explain to me why we should take the risk when so little is known about what critters we need and how to foster them without harming ourselves. I just spent too long with GERD, painful gas and in pre-diabetes to risk chowing down on baked potatoes without a better understanding, you know?

    Please advise.

    Correct, it’s difficult to know. Richard recommends taking some soil-based probiotics to ensure that you have gut bugs to feed.

    1. Tate

      There are some websites out there dedicated to this very issue, including those hosted by the people interviewed in this article. In fact, Richard claims to have limited benefits from the RS until he took probiotics. One website that I have found interesting is this one: http://mrheisenbug.wordpress.com/ From what I have read from various sources, it really depends on PH of the large intestine, which is driven by fermentation in the large intestine by the right sort of bacteria. Many of the people interested in this have pushed fermented vegetables such as Kimchi because it has a mix of bacteria which lowers the PH and makes the SCFA (including soil-based probiotics). Personally, I am not a fan of fermented vegetables on a regular basis, and so have been mixing it with homemade Kefir. The thought process being that though Kefir doesn’t have bacteria which makes the SCFA, but does have a large dose of the bacteria which lowers the PH in the large intestine. So far, so good, but to be honest, I don’t know if I already had the right bacteria mix, or if the Kefir helped.

      1. Ali

        I firmly believe that if you provide the right food ‘they will come’.

        Mix flour and water together and keep it maintained, and it will quite happily turn into sourdough.

        There are those sitting on the Bechamp side of the fence who believe that microbes form in the body depending on the environment within the body. If that generation can ‘happen’ in a bowlful of flour and water, why not within the body?

  18. Tammy

    Tom – Thanks for taking the time to post this. I’ve also read about RS for a while now on both MDA and Free the Animal but as a long time low carber, I just couldn’t get past the “carb-content” per serving on the modified potato starch label. A couple weeks ago MDA posted about it not being absorbed and then I went back and re-read Richard’s site and decided to give it a try. I’m currently in my second week. The first week I started with 1 Tbsp per day and this week it’s 2 Tbsp per day. I also read about, and decided to add a soil based organism pro-biotic. I don’t check fasting glucose but I can tell it’s working in that way. Last weekend I had more carbs than normal plus a couple glasses of wine on Friday night, which would normally put me over the edge where I’d wake up early the next morning absolutely starving from the blood sugar spike the night before. Last Saturday morning I woke up not hungry, and stayed that way until early afternoon when I had my next RS dose. I’m continuing for one month – up to 4 Tbsp so see how it goes. What really hit home for me was when I read that when you eliminate things like wheat and grains, yes you are removing the antagonists but that’s only 80% the other 20% would be the healing part after that which is what I’m currently going for.

    Thanks

    Yeah, it takes some mental adjustment to look at a tablespoon of white powdery stuff and not imagine it spiking your glucose. But it works for me. Last weekend, I preloaded with 2 TB of resistant starch before going out for a Mexican meal that included refried beans, some corn chips, and two beers. My glucose peaked at around 110. Amazing.

    I’ve been taking a soil-based probiotic lately as well.

    1. Kathy in Texas

      I just ordered the soil-based probiotic from MDA, so I’m all set when it arrives. Tom, did you have to “work up to” the amount of RS you take now? Was there any GI distress at first?

      I started with 2 TB, didn’t feel any discomfort, moved up to 4 TB with no discomfort. Your mileage may vary, so I’d follow Richard’s advice to start small and work your way up.

  19. Dave

    The only constant is change? In the past couple years of LCHF I’ve been focused on getting more fat into my diet. It has been great. My BG usually stays in the 70-120 range, so I’m not terribly worried about that. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to experiment again.

    Just out of curiosity, I’ve started to favor protein a bit more over fat, and now you’ve put up this interesting post of RS. Before you know it, I may no longer be on a “high fat” diet. Lol! The more I think about it, the more the implications start to scare me. In the end I might find myself eating a “starch solution” diet similar to that promoted by John McDougall! 😉 Nah, I’m never giving up bacon. Ever!

    No, don’t go to the McDougall dark side!

    It’s the gut-bug/microbiome part of this that prompted me to take another look — I wasn’t having blood sugar issues. I’m moving towards Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet because it seems a bit of starch and resistant starch is good and perhaps even necessary for the gut bugs. His diet is still low-carb and high-fat, just not very-low-carb.

  20. Megan Bagwell

    Brazilian rice tastes amazing cooled!! You cook it with onion and garlic and it’s just the best tasting thing on the planet. No so see those Brazilian babes bodies are beautiful! While waiting for the feijoada to cook I’m sure the rice gets cold! I had experienced weightless eating rice and potato salad before (and not a small amount!) and I wondered how! This stuff is really interesting!!

  21. Megan Bagwell

    Ok next time I will proof read!! Sorry for the iPhone “typos”… Ugh

    I interpreted as best I could.

  22. Norm

    Were the insulin levels measured to determine insulin sensitivity? My concern is that blood glucose control is not coming at the cost of higher insulin levels?

    Yes, insulin levels have been measured in studies. Something about the resistant starch seems to increase insulin sensitivity, which means less insulin is required to clear glucose.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/3/559.full

  23. Justin B

    Thank you, Tom, for visiting this topic. Had it not been for you, I probably would have never actually tried to learn about it, because “it just sounds wrong”. From the moment you mentioned it on Jimmy Moore’s show, I sought out research and articles on the stuff, and I believe that my health is much better for it. I had been adding back 2-3 potato-based meals/sides per week prior to this, just because it seemed to “just work”, in that it helped me re-lose those last 10 lbs, but I probably wouldn’t have understood how or why until you did. Thanks again! BTW, I’ve more recently upped it from 2-3 per week to about 4 or 5, and my weight has remained stable.

    I’ve been adding potatoes back into my diet as per Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet and haven’t gained any weight either. I try to remember to cook and cool them overnight.

    1. Firebird7478

      They say you can do this with white rice, too? Cook it then cool it to create RS? That would be excellent, especially for something like rice pudding (using protein powder for flavoring).

      Yup, works with rice too.

      1. Dave L

        I was thinking about how sushi is cold rice (resistant starch?) with a serving of vitamins (seaweed) and omega 3 fats (fish). Another reason to love California rolls?

  24. Bret

    I admire your integrity, Tom. Having the guts to admit being previously wrong seems to be a rare trait among people, and as we all too well know, thousands of researchers, physicians, bureaucrats, and other know-it-alls over the past few decades have lacked such humility. Their arrogance, combined with politics and government spending, resulted in the industry of dietary misinformation we have rightly grown to detest.

    We all have to fight our existing biases to avoid the destructive groupthink our instincts incline us toward, and it is wonderful that people like yourself, Mark Sisson, and Jimmy Moore are doing just that.

    On a separate note, I am excited to experiment on my BG levels with some cold potatoes, rice, and green bananas. Thanks for the RS primer, and I look forward to the upcoming segments.

    This blog has thousands of readers. If I’m not willing to change my mind, they have no reason to trust me.

  25. Jan's Sushi Bar

    You can rewarm those cooled starches up to about 140 F without them degrading back into just plain old regular starch, if I’m not mistaken, so don’t get it too hot.

    It’s funny, somewhere in the last 4 years, I became a “paleo” food blogger even though I distanced myself from the label from the very beginning – I was just a food blogger before our diet changed (for the better) and I’m a food blogger now that the hardcore paleos, most of whom are newbies, are unsubscribing from my blog in droves. Apparently my rediscovered affection for legumes and sprouted quinoa makes me a heretic, even when I post links to Mark Sisson’s excellent article on RS, as well as Chris Kresser’s article about how lectins and phytates might actually have some benefit.

    Wait until I start posting about my adventures with homemade sourdough bread – which, when frozen and thawed, becomes a fair source of RS.

    I guess that makes you The Judean People’s Front — and a splitter.

  26. Kathy from Maine

    I predict TONS of comments for you to wade through on this one!

    I jumped on the bandwagon just last week. Haven’t been testing or anything so I can’t tell you my results.

    Rather than drinking potato starch, I’m eating a raw potato every morning along with my prebiotic and my soil-based pre/probiotic. Yes, I seem to be the Biotic Woman. I found a link off the Free the Animal site that says you get 25g or resistant starch per 100g of raw potato. He also says to shoot for 30 – 40 grams of RS per day. The typical potatoes I eat are around 150 grams (5 oz), so I’m right in the ballpark.

    Even as a kid I loved eating raw potatoes with salt. No one else in my family liked or would even try raw potatoes, so I have no clue why I started begging for them when my mom was making dinner. I’d even peel a potato for myself and eat it like an apple. Was my body telling me something?

    Yup, your body probably was telling you something. Tim “Tatertot” Steele mentioned in an email that some people feel an urge to eat dirt, which could be a desire for soil-based bacteria that their microbiome is missing. (Or they could just be weird, but it’s an interesting thought.)

    1. Kathy from Maine

      Strangely enough (or not!), as a child I would eat handfuls of good Lake Michigan sand. My mother was mortified and talked to the doctor about it, but he said not to worry, that the sand was probably filling some nutritional deficiency in my body. Smart doc. He thought it might be a mineral I needed, but maybe it was the inherent probiotics.

      Quick question: How much RS is contained in 1 Tbsp of potato starch?

      I know I read that somewhere on Free the Animal, but can’t find the reference at the moment.

      One more question. I’m traveling next week and want to know if anyone has any ideas for how to get RS on the road. I thought of bringing along a ziplock bag of potato starch in my checked luggage. Just wondering if that would be an issues with TSA. Ideas?

      One TB contains about 10 grams of RS. My guess is that if you have a bag of white stuff in your carry-on luggage, you’re going to have problems with the TSA.

      1. Kathy in Texas

        Ha! My mom told me that I ate dirt from the flower beds when I was little. Same story from the doc – probably just something she needs – don’t worry about it. Maybe not such a good idea now, with so many people using chemical fertilizers and all. Back then it was just dirt. I remember pulling carrots out of our little garden and eating them after just shaking off the excess dirt. Good times.

        I’m surprised doctors viewed it that way. Nowadays, they’d probably suggest therapy.

      2. Kathy from Maine

        Yeah, I figured having it in my carry-on would be a bad idea. How about in my checked luggage?

        If all else fails, I suppose I could wait and buy it in Michigan, and then ship it home to me the last day I’m there.

        BTW, I keep reading about the “vivid” dreams people have if they take it in the evening. Last night I took 2 Tbsp in warm water (I’d rather eat a raw potato!) right before going to bed. I woke up abruptly sometime in the middle of the night because of a dream, and it actually made me afraid to fall asleep again. Even awake with my eyes wide open there were these bizarre images going through my brain. From now on, no more potato starch at night. Only in the morning.

        Well, I guess a vivid dream can be good or bad, depending on the subject matter.

        I wouldn’t try white powdery anything in luggage unless it’s the original, unopened package.

  27. Mary D.

    Tom, thanks for interviewing these three. Things have come a long way since the fall of 2011 when Paul Jaminet’s safe starches concept was looked at by many in the paleo world as insanity. His intelligent reply to those critics is what won me over:
    (http://perfecthealthdiet.com/2011/10/jimmy-moore's-seminar-on-“safe-starches”-my-reply/)
    I’m experimenting with potato starch too, gotten up to 2 T. per day mixed into a little V-8. Bob’s Red Mill must be awfully happy with this turn of events, wonder if they’re going to have a shortage soon? The whole topic of gut health is fascinating – it looks like a lot of people could trade thousands of dollars in medical bills for the price of some potato starch and good probiotics. It’s the biggest news over at our new website http://www.thepaleoscoop.com

    I was one the people he mentioned in his response, since I made a crack on Jimmy’s blog about my ancient Irish Ancestors not eating rice or plantains. (Potatoes didn’t come to Ireland until they were brought over from The New World.) That’s what I meant about the whole “safe starch” concept being something I got wrong. My Irish ancestors likely did consume some kind of roots or ground tubers along with plenty of animal foods.

  28. Wheatless Ellen

    Great article and interview, Tom! Kudos!

    One tiny comment on the way you are taking your potato starch: you said you are mixing it with warm water, but from what I’ve read at FTA, cold water would be better. My concern is that readers will gloss right over your caveat about the 140-degree threshold, and they will start mixing it into their bulletproof coffee, which would be a big no no! I stir mine into room temp water and have no trouble chugging it down. It can also be mixed with kefir, yogurt, and even room temp canned pumpkin, to which I add pumpkin pie spice and Z-sweet and sometimes MCT oil.

    Incidentally, I am a diabetic on insulin have been getting tremendous fasting bg since I started taking Bob’s Red Mill potato starch, the best I have ever had in the 20+ years since I was diagnosed.

    Good point, so everyone listen up: DO NOT HEAT THE POTATO STARCH. Go above 140 degrees, and that breaks it down into starch, not resistant starch. Warm means warm, not hot. By warm water, I mean not cold … it’s probably 80-90 degrees.

  29. Harold Aardsma

    Interesting stuff Tom. I am a LCHF eating type 2 diabetic, but recently I have been complaining to my wife that I don’t know what’s going on with my fasting BC numbers. I’m suffering from morning creep. This is certainly worth a try.

    Definitely worth a try in that case.

    1. Harold Aardsma

      I know a N=1 experiment of one day may not mean much but this morning glucose reading was a perfect 83.

  30. Dave

    Thanks Tom,
    I’ve been reading everything I can find on RS and started potato starch about 2 weeks ago. I ramped up too quickly and it was really distressing so I backed off to 2 TBS at bedtime and all’s well. I think folks looking at not having the “right gut biome” are kind of looking at it as if it were black and white. My belief, not scientific and has no research, is even if your gut biome is out of wack, unless you are coming off a series of antibiotics your gut biome probably has some of the right bugs and if you feed them they will establish DOMINANCE! I’ve been lcfh for 6 months, I take no probiotics but use no antimicrobial junk, no sanitizing wipes, I don’t wash my hands after petting the dog, so that probably diversifies my gut biome.

    That’s part of the idea, yes. By feeding the beneficial bacteria, you increase their number.

  31. Dave

    Tammy, be sure to get the unmodified potato starch, I believe that is the only one with the high levels of RS.

  32. Kathy in Texas

    Thanks, Tom! This series and the comments to come are going to be really fun to follow. I actually have a couple of these RS products in the house and am looking forward to finding a way to incorporate them into my diet.

    I’ve mixed the potato starch into a yogurt-blueberry-protein shake. The stuff has almost no flavor, so it’s fine in a shake, just makes it thicker. I’ve also stirred into a mashed potato (warm, but not hot). Mostly, though, I just mix it in water and swallow it.

  33. Pam

    This is all intriguing. Who started all of this and do they have ties to the potato starch industry?

    Richard Nikoley, Tim Steele and Grace Liu have nothing nice to say about the industrial-product high-maize corn starch and have no industry connections that I can see … although I’ll bet the makers of Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch are pleasantly surprised with the increased sales.

  34. whatever

    The big problem here for me is that to make the RS work, you need to have the “right” gut critters and they need to be healthy.

    But there’s no way to know if you have the good bugs or not. In fact, the science still can’t agree what the good bugs exactly are. So maybe you’re helping yourself out. . .or maybe you’re pushing yourself back toward weight gain, T2D & colon cancer.

    You just can’t know. Please explain to me why we should take the risk when so little is known about what critters we need and how to foster them without harming ourselves. I just spent too long with GERD, painful gas and in pre-diabetes to risk chowing down on baked potatoes without a better understanding, you know?

    Please advise.

    Correct, it’s difficult to know. Richard recommends taking some soil-based probiotics to ensure that you have gut bugs to feed.

    1. Tate

      There are some websites out there dedicated to this very issue, including those hosted by the people interviewed in this article. In fact, Richard claims to have limited benefits from the RS until he took probiotics. One website that I have found interesting is this one: http://mrheisenbug.wordpress.com/ From what I have read from various sources, it really depends on PH of the large intestine, which is driven by fermentation in the large intestine by the right sort of bacteria. Many of the people interested in this have pushed fermented vegetables such as Kimchi because it has a mix of bacteria which lowers the PH and makes the SCFA (including soil-based probiotics). Personally, I am not a fan of fermented vegetables on a regular basis, and so have been mixing it with homemade Kefir. The thought process being that though Kefir doesn’t have bacteria which makes the SCFA, but does have a large dose of the bacteria which lowers the PH in the large intestine. So far, so good, but to be honest, I don’t know if I already had the right bacteria mix, or if the Kefir helped.

      1. Ali

        I firmly believe that if you provide the right food ‘they will come’.

        Mix flour and water together and keep it maintained, and it will quite happily turn into sourdough.

        There are those sitting on the Bechamp side of the fence who believe that microbes form in the body depending on the environment within the body. If that generation can ‘happen’ in a bowlful of flour and water, why not within the body?

  35. Dave Mayo

    I noticed the doc mentioned how LC diets can cause BG to creep up. I know the popular thought right now is that this is mediated physiologically within our bodies at the cellular level, but it seems like it is also possible that this could be caused by the gut bugs pulling some hormonal strings. It’s interesting that protein fermenting gut bugs are associated with inflammation and inflammation is associated with insulin resistance. Maybe as the dry or winter season approaches and plant materials become less available, our gut bugs change our physiology in a way that better adapts us to the change in food environment. A lack of fiber and an increase in protein consumptions may flip on the thrifty genes via the microbiome. In another way, stuff like gluten may be problematic because it is a concentrated dose of indigestible protein that can mess up this finely tuned symbiosis.

  36. Tammy

    Tom – Thanks for taking the time to post this. I’ve also read about RS for a while now on both MDA and Free the Animal but as a long time low carber, I just couldn’t get past the “carb-content” per serving on the modified potato starch label. A couple weeks ago MDA posted about it not being absorbed and then I went back and re-read Richard’s site and decided to give it a try. I’m currently in my second week. The first week I started with 1 Tbsp per day and this week it’s 2 Tbsp per day. I also read about, and decided to add a soil based organism pro-biotic. I don’t check fasting glucose but I can tell it’s working in that way. Last weekend I had more carbs than normal plus a couple glasses of wine on Friday night, which would normally put me over the edge where I’d wake up early the next morning absolutely starving from the blood sugar spike the night before. Last Saturday morning I woke up not hungry, and stayed that way until early afternoon when I had my next RS dose. I’m continuing for one month – up to 4 Tbsp so see how it goes. What really hit home for me was when I read that when you eliminate things like wheat and grains, yes you are removing the antagonists but that’s only 80% the other 20% would be the healing part after that which is what I’m currently going for.

    Thanks

    Yeah, it takes some mental adjustment to look at a tablespoon of white powdery stuff and not imagine it spiking your glucose. But it works for me. Last weekend, I preloaded with 2 TB of resistant starch before going out for a Mexican meal that included refried beans, some corn chips, and two beers. My glucose peaked at around 110. Amazing.

    I’ve been taking a soil-based probiotic lately as well.

    1. Kathy in Texas

      I just ordered the soil-based probiotic from MDA, so I’m all set when it arrives. Tom, did you have to “work up to” the amount of RS you take now? Was there any GI distress at first?

      I started with 2 TB, didn’t feel any discomfort, moved up to 4 TB with no discomfort. Your mileage may vary, so I’d follow Richard’s advice to start small and work your way up.

  37. Becky

    Egad. Just followed a few of those links to other discussions. Conclusions are hard to make, even on an individual basis, about what to do except TRY stuff. When you’re going for optimal health from good health, it’s possible to really not notice a difference, but very possible to do actual harm, over time. When you’re correcting a condition (hopefully), you may be setting up another one.

    On a paleo diet, I got diverticulitis. Paul Jaminet did, too, on VLC, and discusses it in some podcasts, though not in the book. He believes that without sufficient carbs, the colon mucus is compromised and weaknesses in the colon wall occur.

    This disease has changed my life and is an awful condition to have, as it is very hard to know what sets off attacks, even when tracking food. One tends to obsess over one’s gut flora because the bad bacteria are what cause attacks. How to keep them at bay with the good guys is the hope. Eating is no longer pleasurable, but a minefield.

    I can’t eat white potatoes or potato starch because I am definitely nightshade intolerant. Instant joint pain. I’ve tried tapioca-starch “breads” but highly suspect them of being problematic bacteria-wise. (They have preceded two attacks.)

    But most of all I’m suspicious of almost everything I read now … it seems to me that everything we do “to be healthy,” if it is in any way extreme or repetitive (daily, for years) is doing something else we won’t know about until we find ourselves hooked up to an IV in a hospital, staring out the window and wishing we’d eaten differently.

    If you want to experiment, you might be better off with plantain flour.

    1. SB

      If you don’t have issues w/ bananas, you can try buying (then slicing and freezing to maintain greenness) green bananas and then throwing a handful into a smoothie made w/ yogurt (bacteria!), milk, and some berries (or not. but it would be pretty un-sweet). I’ve been having 1 smoothie/day and it has helped some intestinal distress w/in a couple weeks. Your mileage may vary.

  38. Dave

    The only constant is change? In the past couple years of LCHF I’ve been focused on getting more fat into my diet. It has been great. My BG usually stays in the 70-120 range, so I’m not terribly worried about that. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to experiment again.

    Just out of curiosity, I’ve started to favor protein a bit more over fat, and now you’ve put up this interesting post of RS. Before you know it, I may no longer be on a “high fat” diet. Lol! The more I think about it, the more the implications start to scare me. In the end I might find myself eating a “starch solution” diet similar to that promoted by John McDougall! 😉 Nah, I’m never giving up bacon. Ever!

    No, don’t go to the McDougall dark side!

    It’s the gut-bug/microbiome part of this that prompted me to take another look — I wasn’t having blood sugar issues. I’m moving towards Paul Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet because it seems a bit of starch and resistant starch is good and perhaps even necessary for the gut bugs. His diet is still low-carb and high-fat, just not very-low-carb.

  39. Megan Bagwell

    Brazilian rice tastes amazing cooled!! You cook it with onion and garlic and it’s just the best tasting thing on the planet. No so see those Brazilian babes bodies are beautiful! While waiting for the feijoada to cook I’m sure the rice gets cold! I had experienced weightless eating rice and potato salad before (and not a small amount!) and I wondered how! This stuff is really interesting!!

  40. Megan Bagwell

    Ok next time I will proof read!! Sorry for the iPhone “typos”… Ugh

    I interpreted as best I could.

  41. Kat

    I have spent the last few years trying to stick to a low FODMAPs diet to reduce IBS symptoms after being diagnosed with FODMAP malabsorption by a gastroenterologist. Has anyone successfully healed their gut using resistant starch so that they could start absorbing FODMAPs again? When I try RS the gas and bloating etc is too extreme to continue any longer without knowing that it is actually going to improve eventually. I have tried about 6 months of dehydrated green plantains.

    I don’t have an answer on that one. If anyone knows, chime in.

    1. Tate

      Have you tried taking it with probiotics or mixed with homemade Kefir? If you look at what happens with RS, it tends to feed the dominate microbes unless it is already bound by other bacteria. I think this may explain why some people have great results and other have terrible results. When I make my Kefir, I do so with 4 tbs of PS and then let it ferment until the whey starts to separate. I haven’t had anything but positive results.

      I’ve taken with probiotics and also stirred into yogurt with some blueberries.

    2. Nikki

      @ Kat
      Some history: I have IBS problably since my middle 20’s starting with lactose intolerance. In those days (25 years ago) there was no such thing as lactose free milk on the supermarket shelves. Fastforward 15 years, I gave up wheat and PUFA. What a difference! Fast forward another 5 years, after my third child, I’m still struggling with my IBS but now if I do eat wheat, I don’t have an IBS attack. I am hoping for more healing (I now have low thyroid – no meds, low B12 and low Vit D which I both supplement) with resistance (potatoe) starch but I too don’t tolerate it well. I get severe bloating (I look six month pregnant) and usually no fartage that most people speak of. Once I find a reasonable price source of soil-based organisms in Ontario, Canada, I’ll try it again.

      Perhaps if you investigate Dr. Grace’s blogspot AnimalPharm, you might find some guidance. She insist upon a test to see what gut bugs you have and perhaps if you have that info you could start from there.

    3. Lori Miller

      I quit eating foods that gave me FODMAPS problems (fruit and wheat) and lost my taste for them to the point that fruit doesn’t smell good and bread and pastries don’t even look like food anymore. Some people find it easier to cut out certain foods entirely than to try to do the moderation thing.

  42. Norm

    Were the insulin levels measured to determine insulin sensitivity? My concern is that blood glucose control is not coming at the cost of higher insulin levels?

    Yes, insulin levels have been measured in studies. Something about the resistant starch seems to increase insulin sensitivity, which means less insulin is required to clear glucose.

    http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/3/559.full

  43. Mark S. (not Sisson)

    Reading this post and comments reminds me of my home-brew beer making days, years ago. (No, really!) The concept of RS is completely new to me but this discussion brings up remarkable parallels to beer making.

    Consider:
    1. RS feeds gut biota, produces nutrients for the intestine and maybe the rest of the body.
    2. Raising the temperature of RS to 140*F+ converts it to regular starch.

    Now, when I was sparging malted barley to make wort to brew into beer, I used a similar process, sort of the reverse of the above:

    1. I combined 180*F water with crushed malted barley, which resulted in a 140*F mash. This temperature was held for a predetermined amount of time, so that enzymes would convert the starches in the barley into glucose. Sparging (sprinkling 140*F water with a rotating device) onto the top of the mash while simultaneously draining the wort out the bottom of the vessel allowed capture of the optimal sugar content.
    2. After boiling the wort with hops, the wort is rapidly cooled to fermentation temperature. Brewer’s yeast is then added. (Herein lies the similarity to the fermentation of RS by gut biota.) Fermentation then proceeds for several days to a week or so. Sugar is converted to carbon dioxide and alcohol. But there are added nutritional benefits, such as B-vitamins produced by the yeast, and nutrients inherent in the barley itself.

    So I have to wonder if drinking beer could be considered a short cut to the processes that occur with RS in the gut. Hmm…this could prove to be an interesting and fun experiment.

    I don’t know if I’d want to try healing my gut with beer.

  44. Azurean

    So apparently, when you take a high-carb meal with a set amount of carbs, the blood glucose is lower if you took some resistant starch before. The question is : where did the glucose go, if not in the blood ? Did it stay in the intestine waiting its turn ? Did it get stored quicker as fat ?

    It’s a matter of insulin sensitivity, so insulin would do its job: move the glucose into muscle cells, stimulate the liver to store it as glycogen, or move it into fat cells, depending on what else is happening in the body. Ultimately, increased insulin sensitivity means lower insulin levels, which is good.

    1. Dave L

      A low carb diet is one way of dealing with pathological insulin resistance generally caused by things like refined sugars and trans fats in the standard American diet. A very low carb diet creates physiological insulin resistance which is glucose sparing to reserve what blood glucose is available for tissues that cannot metabolize free fatty acids and ketones, and it can be therapeutic for some people.

      Pathological insulin resistance causes diabetes because it forces the body to make more and more insulin to deal with glucose in the diet. High insulin, high blood glucose, and insulin resistant tissues combined is the problem to be avoided or corrected.

      A properly functioning metabolism should be able to handle a “normal” amount of glucose in the diet without spiking blood sugar and insulin. All cells get fed, glycogen gets stored, and stored fats get released as needed, all without prolonged elevated levels of insulin. Resistant starch is supposed to help the gut bacteria help the host organism by restoring hormonal balance, including insulin sensitivity.

      That being said, I wonder what Peter at Hyperlipid thinks about resistant starch?

      1. Sabine

        Peter at Hyperlipid recently published a link to a lecture about mitochondrial DNA related diseases.
        It was a very good reminder of our differences. Our genetic differences also may mean, that what works or is acceptable for one person, may be detrimental for another person.
        I think, this also fits in well with resistant starches and the amount of carbohydrates one can tolerate. It will be different for different people.

        I agree completely.

  45. Michael

    While I’m supportive of your general approach concerning prebiotics, I would personally be a little more circumspect with regard to probiotics including SBOs. What one doesn’t see on the blogs, nor in the media, are the reports on bacteremia as a result of these totally unregulated products. But they are there on pubmed, and I would be specifically concerned in the case of immunocompromised patients.

    Btw, I’m not saying your are personally recommending probiotics to others, but I do see it recommended more and more. In the above comments, too, about ‘feeding empty cages’, etc. Like I said, it’s not without risk.

  46. tony

    Congratulations Tom. Amazing article. I have two questions:

    1. Is the Garden of Life Primal Defense you advertise a soil-based probiotic product? Any other soil-based probiotic products? How would I recognize one?

    2. Would RS blunt the bad effects of consuming bad carbohydrates?

    Yeah, that’s the probiotic I started taking, so I chose that for the ad space.

    RS appears to blunt the glucose response to other carbohydrates, but I haven’t tried it with anything truly bad … say, white flour bread.

  47. Bret

    I admire your integrity, Tom. Having the guts to admit being previously wrong seems to be a rare trait among people, and as we all too well know, thousands of researchers, physicians, bureaucrats, and other know-it-alls over the past few decades have lacked such humility. Their arrogance, combined with politics and government spending, resulted in the industry of dietary misinformation we have rightly grown to detest.

    We all have to fight our existing biases to avoid the destructive groupthink our instincts incline us toward, and it is wonderful that people like yourself, Mark Sisson, and Jimmy Moore are doing just that.

    On a separate note, I am excited to experiment on my BG levels with some cold potatoes, rice, and green bananas. Thanks for the RS primer, and I look forward to the upcoming segments.

    This blog has thousands of readers. If I’m not willing to change my mind, they have no reason to trust me.

  48. Kathy from Maine

    I predict TONS of comments for you to wade through on this one!

    I jumped on the bandwagon just last week. Haven’t been testing or anything so I can’t tell you my results.

    Rather than drinking potato starch, I’m eating a raw potato every morning along with my prebiotic and my soil-based pre/probiotic. Yes, I seem to be the Biotic Woman. I found a link off the Free the Animal site that says you get 25g or resistant starch per 100g of raw potato. He also says to shoot for 30 – 40 grams of RS per day. The typical potatoes I eat are around 150 grams (5 oz), so I’m right in the ballpark.

    Even as a kid I loved eating raw potatoes with salt. No one else in my family liked or would even try raw potatoes, so I have no clue why I started begging for them when my mom was making dinner. I’d even peel a potato for myself and eat it like an apple. Was my body telling me something?

    Yup, your body probably was telling you something. Tim “Tatertot” Steele mentioned in an email that some people feel an urge to eat dirt, which could be a desire for soil-based bacteria that their microbiome is missing. (Or they could just be weird, but it’s an interesting thought.)

    1. Kathy from Maine

      Strangely enough (or not!), as a child I would eat handfuls of good Lake Michigan sand. My mother was mortified and talked to the doctor about it, but he said not to worry, that the sand was probably filling some nutritional deficiency in my body. Smart doc. He thought it might be a mineral I needed, but maybe it was the inherent probiotics.

      Quick question: How much RS is contained in 1 Tbsp of potato starch?

      I know I read that somewhere on Free the Animal, but can’t find the reference at the moment.

      One more question. I’m traveling next week and want to know if anyone has any ideas for how to get RS on the road. I thought of bringing along a ziplock bag of potato starch in my checked luggage. Just wondering if that would be an issues with TSA. Ideas?

      One TB contains about 10 grams of RS. My guess is that if you have a bag of white stuff in your carry-on luggage, you’re going to have problems with the TSA.

      1. Richard Nikoley

        Actually, 1TB is 7-8g RS (the rest being the moisture trapped inside the granule, that makes it burst like popcorn at 140F).

        So, 4TB gets you to around 30g RS.

      2. Kathy in Texas

        Ha! My mom told me that I ate dirt from the flower beds when I was little. Same story from the doc – probably just something she needs – don’t worry about it. Maybe not such a good idea now, with so many people using chemical fertilizers and all. Back then it was just dirt. I remember pulling carrots out of our little garden and eating them after just shaking off the excess dirt. Good times.

        I’m surprised doctors viewed it that way. Nowadays, they’d probably suggest therapy.

      3. Kathy from Maine

        Yeah, I figured having it in my carry-on would be a bad idea. How about in my checked luggage?

        If all else fails, I suppose I could wait and buy it in Michigan, and then ship it home to me the last day I’m there.

        BTW, I keep reading about the “vivid” dreams people have if they take it in the evening. Last night I took 2 Tbsp in warm water (I’d rather eat a raw potato!) right before going to bed. I woke up abruptly sometime in the middle of the night because of a dream, and it actually made me afraid to fall asleep again. Even awake with my eyes wide open there were these bizarre images going through my brain. From now on, no more potato starch at night. Only in the morning.

        Well, I guess a vivid dream can be good or bad, depending on the subject matter.

        I wouldn’t try white powdery anything in luggage unless it’s the original, unopened package.

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