Resistant starch might not sound sexy, but there has been a huge buzz about it among scientists and the nutrition community that it could be the next big thing.
Its proposed health benefits include improved gut health, colon health, insulin sensitivity and even improved weight loss.
As with any ‘trend’ in the nutrition industry, it is important to look at topics from an objective scientific perspective – at first, the claims about this type of fibre almost sound too good to be true, but more and more impressive research is coming out to support it.
In this article we will break down the hours of research to give you all you need to know about the benefits of resistant starch.
What is Resistant Starch?
Resistant starch (RS) refers to the portion of starch that resists digestion as it passes through the gastrointestinal tract.
There are many different types of fibre we consume in the typical Western diet. As we know from previous research any general type of fibre has been shown to have beneficial health effects including aiding in satiety, heart health and weight loss (1).
However, this begs the question: is all fibre created equal? Recently, researchers have discovered there are different digestive properties amongst different types of fibres and, as a result, they have different effects on the body.
Currently, there are four different types of resistant starch that are recognised to have significant health benefits, which we will break down in detail now.
Digestive System and Colon Health
One of the ways resistant starch benefits the digestive system and colon health is by increasing the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). Resistant starch bypasses digestion in the small intestine and instead gets fermented in the large intestine; this is the process which produces the SCFA.
Some examples of SCFA are butyrate, propionate and acetate. SCFAs may not sound familiar; however, they are a very interesting nutrient that has been associated with improving bowel health, blood lipid profiles (such as cholesterol), nutrient absorption and increased satiety! (3)
Resistant starch increases the production of SCFA and as a result increases colonic blood flow, and can even help prevent the development of abnormal cell production in the colon (4). While improving your gut health may not seem a priority, remember, it’s linked to many aspects of health. Considering this, research has shown that an increase in SCFA production is key for your overall gut and colon health (5, 6).
Gut Health and Gut Bacteria
These days, due to a combination of toxins, chronic bad food choices and a generally poor lifestyle, our gut health is not as healthy as it should be. This can have a negative impact on many aspects of our body, disease risk and physique.
But new studies suggest that resistant starch feeds our healthy bacteria and may also provide protection for these bacteria as they travel throughout the digestive tract (9).
While there are both good and bad bacteria in our bodies, RS seem to feed the good bacteria known as Bifidobacterium which is vital for overall health (7).
The specific bacteria strain Bifidobacterium enhances various parameters of immune function and may help prevent salmonella and other infections (8).
It is essential to create an environment in which Bifidobacterium can survive – certain lifestyle factors, such as taking antibiotics, may reduce the amount or effectiveness of this bacterium.
Therefore, not only does RS aid in our general gut health, by increasing the production of SCFA, but it can also act as a prebiotic protecting our sacred gut bacteria!
One of the primary issues with diabetics, as well as obese and overweight individuals, is insulin sensitivity. Insulin resistance describes our body’s ability (or lack of) to metabolise and transport blood sugar, primarily obtained from carbohydrates, around the body and into the cells for energy.
When an individual is insulin resistant they cannot utilise glucose (blood sugar) properly and this may result in increased blood glucose levels, other serious health concerns and excess fat accumulation when combined with a chronic calorie surplus (over-consumption of food).
Insulin resistance is primarily lifestyle dependent so dietary interventions, which can improve our insulin sensitivity (or reduce our insulin resistance), can provide significant health improvements.
One study investigated resistant starch’s effects and recruited 20 insulin-resistant subjects, providing them with diets high in resistant starch, containing 40g per day.
At the end of the study, insulin sensitivity improved significantly in the resistant starch group compared to no change in the control group. This increased insulin sensitivity also resulted in positive changes in waist circumference and body fat levels (10).
Another way resistant starch improves overall health parameters is by lowering the blood sugar response after a meal, which is a key marker of heart disease and metabolic diseases (11).
Lowering blood sugar levels after meals in combination with increasing insulin sensitivity can have significant improvements on your overall quality of life, as well as reducing your risk of developing many chronic diseases.
RS intake seems to control glucose and insulin levels to a greater degree compared to other starches or fibre. Down the road, this could also have significant impacts on other health parameters such as weight loss, especially in diabetics or obese individuals.
Of course, no article would be complete until we discussed its benefits on your weight, body fat and physique.
Resistant starch may aid in weight loss by increasing satiety after a meal as well as reducing overall calorie intake. Resistant starch is similar to fibrous foods in that they are both very filling and low in calories.
In regards to satiety, one group of researchers provided 10 healthy males with a meal high in either resistant starch or digestible starch and measured their feelings or perception of satiety and hunger after the meal.
This study found that the meal high in resistant starch resulted in reductions in blood sugar levels, insulin, as well as increased satiety when compared to the digestible starch condition (12).
These results have since been repeated and it appears that resistant starch may be superior to other forms of fibre on increasing satiation after a meal (13). Increased feelings of satiety from resistant starch have also been shown to decrease food intake and result in increased weight loss over a longer period of time (14). Finally, resistant starch may also result in improved fat loss by increasing fat oxidation, reduce fat storages and even increase energy expenditure (15)
As you can see, resistant starch may improve weight loss through a variety of mechanisms, especially when combined with a strict calorie-controlled diet and exercise regime.
Resistant starch can increase satiety after a meal, reduce calorie intake throughout the course of a day and lastly increase fat oxidation as well as the amount of calories you burn when resting!
How can you add more resistant starch into your diet?
Most Americans are sadly only consuming 5g of resistant starch per day even though the recommendation are 6g per meal!
Luckily, there are several ways you can increase your resistant starch intake.
Here’s a list of some foods that are high in resistant starch:
- Raw potato starch
- Raw plantain starch
- Green bananas
- Sweet potatoes
- Bob Mills Potato Starch
It can be hard for many people to get their daily dose of resistant starch. But eating adding some of the foods suggested into your daily diet plan is a simple way to up your doseage.
If you’re struggling, you can use Bob Mills Potato Starch which is a very low-cost white powder like flour. It doesn’t have a noticeable taste and can be easily mixed into smoothies, yoghurts, sauces, protein pudding, protein shakes, etc. I recommend you use 10g around two or three times a day to easily increase your daily intake.
Make sure you increase your RS content gradually and space out your daily intake into several meals rather than one sitting. Over 10-15g in one meal may cause digestive issues. If you are currently consuming minimal amounts start with 20g per day and then move up to 30 or 40g per day after a couple of weeks.
Unlike a lot of new health trends, it turns out the hype is real in this case, with some pretty amazing health benefits.
Resistant starch has an extensive amount of research to support all of the claims and many are now referring to it as the “Super Fiber”
A summary of the benefits include:
- Increases the production of short chain fatty acids which have been shown to improve digestive and colon health.
- Feeds your good gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium which has been shown to play an important role in immune function.
- Increases insulin sensitivity as well as lower blood glucose levels after a meal.
- Aids in weight loss due to increased satiety, lower calorie intake and even increase energy expenditure or fat oxidation.
Whether you’re looking to improve your gut health, decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease or just looking to lose a couple of pounds, then adding resistant starch into your diet may just be what you need to help you reach your goals. Give it a try today and see how you benefit!
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