Fear of Raw Potato Starch Ingestion is Probably Irrational

Unfortunately, a certain blogger still seems more interested in promoting that irrational fear. I'll leave it to readers to discern motivations.

So, first a little housecleaning. I waffle back and forth between regretting taking down a post laying out my beefs with Ms. Grace Liu, and being relieved because of the involvement or proximity of other parties. The latter outweighs the former, so it will forever remain as is. I was also relieved because it presented an opportunity to move forward and debate the science: Moving Forward: My Approach to Evaluating the Science and Knowledge of the Gut Biome and Resistant Starch.

I'm moving forward alright, but with absolutely zero contact or collaboration with Ms. Liu. She is simply not behaving in accordance with, or in the spirit of our agreement when she asked me to take down the post and I agreed, with conditions.

Hours after I made 100% good on my end, I get an email asking to make sure I acknowledge her "contributions" in the book, going so far as to say, explicitly, that everything Tim Steele has said or written since October of 2013, he got from her. Without agreeing with her delusion, I grit my teeth and agree that I will acknowledge her, even offering to email a pre-publication copy to make sure it was to her satisfaction.

Then, this comment shows up in her blog: "I have warned Mr Nikoley as well - the high dosage RPS for over the last 1-2 years probably prevented the healing of his autoimmune Hashimoto's." I feel embarrassed to even have to refute such illogical muddled balderdash. My untreated TSH improved between 2008 and today. It was normal during 2010 - 2012 because I was on medication, which I ceased over two years ago and have not had a test of any kind until last week. Moreover, I told Ms. Liu this in an email and the answer back was 'no, potato starch compromised your gut and that's why you didn't heal.' It's like saying: Yea, your hypothyroidism got better during the last 2 ears of not being on medication, but it's because of the RPS it's not improved more! Pretty illogical; as unfalsifiable as it is unprovable. Incidentally, I just had two comments on my blog this morning from guys whose TSH has gone down since supplementing PS.

Then, the kicker in her comments this morning. I suspect she's answering her own sock puppet.

Anonymous said...
RN is a little skank and i support you. so will other people.

Dr. B G said...
Thank you Anon. I appreciate your warm support. I won't be silenced, by lies or skankiness. ;)

The final thing is Tim's post that I will address below: Raw Potato Starch; A Great Prebiotic!

Accordingly, the following outlines my course of action moving forward.

  1. This will be the very last time I will speak or write of Grace Liu in any way; will accept no contact from her, regardless of context or terms.
  2. I have taken steps to have all 700+ links to her blog going back to 2008 (352 of them from her) expunged from mine.
  3. I will not acknowledge any asserted "contributions" by her in any manner.

Now, on the matter of Tim's post, one of the falsehoods bandied about is that we encouraged people to load up on raw potato starch with no concern for food or other fiber supplements. I already addressed that, but let me reiterate. Here's a comment by Tatertot himself in the very first post we did on resistant starch.

I have heard that banana flour and plantain flour is the same thing.

Raw Potato Starch contains virtually no micronutrients. The banana/plantain flours contain more as they are not isolated starch, but the whole ground fruit.

Inulin powder is not RS, but it is a plant fiber that resists digestion. It is usually avoided by people with FODMAP intolerance, while potato starch is not a FODMAP. That being said, Inulin powder would probably be a good choice to put a bit of in a smoothy with potato starch as Inulin is considered to be a prebiotic, just like potato starch.

Taro powder also probably has very little RS as it seems to be made of amylopectin starch, which is not resistant. If you read up on ‘Poi’, which is fermented taro, it sounds like a really good source of nutrition.

I’m thinking a really good idea would be to make a mix of known RS starches and prebiotics, like potato starch, taro powder, banana flour, inulin, etc… and make a smoothy or mix with milk or yogurt every day. Go heavy on the potato starch or banana flour and a bit of the others.

And here's what he wrote in the post itself:

Edibility-wise, potato starch is not bad. It mixes well with any liquid and has no real taste and is not gritty, mealy, or pastey. I've eaten up to 4TBS (48g), which is 30-35g of RS, on an empty stomach with no digestive problems. I think it is a very good addition to your arsenal of RS foods.

So, after months of research, it's come down to this: I eat potatoes almost every day, cooked in a variety of ways, a few raw slices, and lots of cold potatoes. I eat sushi when I can, beans on rare occasion, and I keep a baggy full of dried plantains on the counter to snack on. When I buy bananas, I get the greenest ones I can find. Sushi is eaten guilt free, especialy with raw fish and seaweed. I will eat legumes from time to time if thoughtfully prepared to remove toxins. I also keep a container of potato starch on the counter and am finding all kinds of ways to use it--in smoothies, milk, kefir, mixed with water and eaten with berries and mashed bananas, or just mixed with water and drank.

In short, PS was merely an entry point for some, particularly LCers and diabetics who were unsure of adding any digestible carbohydrate to their diet. One thing it did do for most people is convince them in no uncertain terms that the gut biome is very important. That there are clear effects is hard to miss.

And yet, in Ms. Liu's (neither will I refer to her as "Dr.") comments, she has some so irrationally fearful that I've seen stuff of the form, 'oh thank you thank you thank you; I'm so upset that Tim and Richard put the health of myself and my family at risk.' Her responses to these kinds of comments generally signal, to me, what her underlying motivations are in this.

Tim's post is about a single variable science experiment with 4 individuals, covering a six week intervention with a single intervention theme (1 subject had it in kefir, another with a bit of psyllium). You guessed it: raw potato starch. Some of you actually helped make this happen by funding the project.

I'll not take away Tim's thunder and besides, he does a very careful job of laying out the testing hypothesis, something I find quite refreshing vis-a-vis the manner in which Ms. Liu presents her assertions.

  1. Well, clear stated hypothesis
  2. Logical set of questions for research to answer
  3. Establishes a clear standard of success by means of reference to the very latest published research (November, 2014)
  4. Presents clear results that meet the standard of success

Here's the punchline. These four species are specifically mentioned as important targets of attention in the research Tim cites.

Gut Resuls2

Tim says:

To recap the dietary interventions:

Adult 1 - Added 4TBS of potato starch daily
Adult 2 - Added 2TBS of potato starch daily, mixed with kefir
Child 1 - Added 1TBS of potato starch daily, plus 1tsp of psyllium husk
Child 2 - Added 1TBS of potato starch daily

The dietary intervention lasted for 6 weeks, and the final fecal samples were taken on the last day.

An examination of the data shows that each subject had considerable increases in bifidobacterium, and mainly increases in the other bacteria suggested as targets for prebiotics by Rastall and Gibson. The slight decreases were most pronounced in the subject (Child 2) who ate the least amount of total fiber supplements, but ironically, this subject also had the largest increase in bifidobacteria.

The species of bifidobacteria detected in the samples were ~95% Bifidobacterium breve, with smaller amounts of animalis, dentium, longum, and pseudolongum.

So, even being skeptical of sequencing results, it seems pretty difficult and downright unreasonable to make a claim that raw potato starch harmed any of these subjects over six weeks, a claim Ms. Liu has been asserting for months in a bunch of posts.

Moving Forward: My Approach to Evaluating the Science and Knowledge of the Gut Biome and Resistant Starch

Time to look forward. There's no question that since my very first post on resistant starch in April, 2013, things have changed in a number of ways. I like to think that the more than 130 posts related to resistant starch or the microbiome in some way—many including contributions by others, like Tim Steele and Grace Liu—have contributed to the general impact of recognizing the importance of gut health and the role of resistant starch in the whole picture. Since there's now a number of voices out there on the topic and some dispute about some things, I thought I might put some rules or guidelines out there I'm going to use to evaluate things moving forward.

The MetaRulz

  1. The vast majority of what's to be known and understood about the complex workings of the human microbiome and its interactions with the host remains to be discovered.
  2. The things we think we know and understand are mostly wrong or incomplete in some way.
  3. The struggle is in the process of becoming less wrong over time, not in searching for ways of being right.

The ThumbRulz

  1. We don't know what the "ideal" gut microbiome looks like. It's more likely there's no such thing.
  2. Gut bug composition changes meal to meal and season to season. RNA sequencing, then, is perhaps best done in a fasted state of at least 24 hours to get a better idea of an individual's "metagut."
  3. RNA sequencing is flawed, where even the same sample taken in the exact same spot yields some vastly different results.
  4. Hunter gatherer guts are probably of limited value to non huntger-gatherers. Perhaps better would be the sequences of people in your neck of the woods, same age and gender, who are lean and have a clean medical history (esp. no signs of autoimmune disorders).
  5. Just because a particular species of gut bacteria is generally associated with good things doesn't automatically mean that more of it is better. 1% of 100 trillion is a very big number.
  6. Excluding testing error (#3), a decrease in a species associated with good stuff could have a number of explanations: all good, all bad, or a mix. For example, if Akkermansia drops in population, could it be because something else good increased and the previous levels of Akk are no longer necessary, or needed?
  7. Is a different mix and relative proportion of bugs called for in a diseased person than a healthy person; and moreover, is it possible that the mix in the diseased person is actually helping them from getting worse, rather than a direct cause of their state of disease?
  8. Horizontal gene transfer is a factor in all of this, and I don't think sequencing is yet sophisticated enough to detect that. In other words, it's the genes and their expression in the gut that's fundamentally important, not species classification (just a way for us to...um...classify).
  9. Some humans, owing to their specific human genetic makeup, i.e., what needs expressing and what needs repressing, and control of specific pathogens, will require different sets of genes in their gut.
  10. Some species associated with good (or bad) stuff may have significant members of their ranks "hiding out" in mucosal layers, biofilms, whatever, and be relatively undetectable in sequencing tests.
  11. One thing we do seem to have a pretty good handle on is clear pathogens (or overgrowths of even "good" bugs) and this should dominate therapeutic intervention for now. Once that's out of the way, we'll have all the time in the world to worry about boutique bugs.

There may be more. Feel free to suggest. I already incorporated some stuff by Gemma in the last few rulz.

Ok, so one issue at hand now, spearheaded by Grace (link removed), is questions over the propriety of using raw potato starch as a supplement, or perhaps more poignantly, in high dose. It's important to go back to the beginning, the very first post, and look at how this all got started. In the words of Tim Steele.

Most scientists used 20-50 grams RS per day in their human studies. Most recommendations are for the ingestion of 20-40g/day for maximum benefit, and there seems to be an upper limit of about 60g where it stops being effective, and a lower limit of about 20g where it has little effect.

My next step was to target RS in the 20-60g/day range from common foods...this proved difficult.

I learned there was a bit of RS in cooked and cooled rice, like sushi rice, but only a small amount, like 5g per cup.

He goes on to lay out the RS content of a bunch of common foods, then suggests potato starch at the end as supplement, alternative. Check it out. And, later on, Tim painstakingly put together a 5-page PDF listing RS in a whole bunch of foods, by weight.

And yes, in spite of that, a lot of people ignored trying to get much from foods, because they come in grains and starches. You know why? The Very Low Carb Menace, that's why. In Tim's case, he was already eating lots of cooked and cooled potatoes, beans, and his own dried green plantains. In my case, I did the 4 TBS daily for a while, then went intermittent (1, 0, 3, 6, 0, 0, 0, 2, etc.). Now, sometimes I go a week or more with zero and a while back went more than a month with zero. Why? Because I eat plenty of beans and potatoes. Rice sometimes. Even bread...very only sometimes (doing my part for hormesis).

Nonetheless, if we are to look at studies showing that high dose raw potato starch is a questionable practice, which I'm willing to do, we have to look at anecdotes or, more accurately, the relative lack thereof. But, one thing out of the way: I agree, a regime that's like 4 TBS every morning at 6:38 am, with the exact same smoothie or food, is not the best approach. Intermittency and variation in all things, please.

This morning, I scanned through all sales via my Amazon shopping link (13,200 orders) from April, 2013 to today, looking for products associated with gut health. Here's the list with order totals:

Tons of other things gut related, but I excluded anything with less than 10 orders. There's also the case of commenter Wilbur, who takes all manner of various powdered fibers and claims impressive results.

Take home points:

  1. There is one hell of a lot of people worldwide experimenting with potato starch and to lesser extent, other fibers. And probiotics (the soil-based ones as Grace harped on almost from the beginning) are pretty huge. Add to that their mention now on hundreds of other blogs and websites, using their own associates links. Add to that, the the folks who just grab it at the supermarket, as I sometimes do. Very lots.
  2. If the argument that ritual supplementing of 4 TBS or thereabouts daily is not the best approach, zero argument from me. More on that below.
  3. If the argument, however, is that this stuff is really going to harm you (and some have been using it for 20 months), then I need to see some really compelling anecdotal evidence of that. Instead, what we have is thousands of positive anecdotes in comments (and I get many emails), compared to a relatively small percentage where some level of discomfort was experienced, like bloating, joint pain, rash, etc.
  4. I don't think that a changed gut RNA sequence cuts it, for reasons outlined in the thumbrulz, above, and especially if not accompanied by some sort of clear physical downstream effect that shows up significantly in a lot of people. We are still bound to the scientific method, here.

But again, this may not even be worth arguing because I am all on board with expanding the mix. First of all, eat the damn food! Second, if you do supplement, then keep it real, use a mix of the prebiotics, and incorporate the probiotics, especially the dirt.

So, right now, I'm experimenting with mixes of a variety of stuff. Usually, it's about a third to half PS, then a bunch of other stuff from above, and Wilbur's list too. And yes, I hope to develop a product once I nail down proportions I like and do some beta testing. Yes, you'll know the ingredients, but the proportions will be my trade secret. The idea is that by using economies of scale to purchase bulk, I can get you a single product with a mix of about a dozen things that costs less than buying all of them, saves space, saves the trouble of spooning out individually or mixing yourself, and ads convenience to your life. Of course, anyone can develop such a product, BUT ONLY ONE WILL BE CALLED..."ANIMAL FARTS!" :)

Now, when I have a smoothie, which is maybe 3-4 times per week: it's 1 raw egg, two heaping TBS of my mix (roughly 40% PS), 3-4 oz orange juice, the rest of the 14 total oz topped off with whole milk. I don't bother with blenders anymore and I'll just eat fruit. I put all that in one of those 14 oz shakers with an agitator ball in it. Comes out perfectly smooth, tasting creamy like an Orange Julius. It's the only smoothie recipe I need; might use other fruit juices sometimes.

A final note, about my Hashimoto's announced here, and expounded upon here, with input by Chris Kresser. Some points:

  1. Since I've had elevated TSH since about 1998-2000 when it first showed up on a blood test, it's likely that it was the same autoimmune condition.
  2. I can't recall what those numbers were back then, but in 2008 my TSH was 16 in a 1-5 reference range.
  3. One would expect the condition to get worse over time. TSH was in normal range in the 2009-2011 timeframe because I was on Armour Thyroid, which of course does not address the underlying issue of the elevated TPO antibody.
  4. While I don't have a TPO AB reference point, since my TSH went from 16 to just under 10 from 2008 to now, and I haven't been on any meds in 2-3 years, it's more likely that I have LESS TPO antibody now, not more.
  5. ...Meaning that the WORST one can say about my supplementation with raw potato starch over the last 20 months is that it almost certainly did not make this autoimmune condition worse (and if there's any effect at all, it's far more likely to have been a positive one).

But, now I'm interested in fixing it. First, I have to get rid of things I don't need that may be adversely impacting my gut: all alcohol, gluten, processed and fast foods. It's not like I do a lot of the latter, but I can get pretty sloppy. Thankfully, I've been pretty weight stable at around 185 for months now.

So, gonna eliminate all that stuff, drop 20 pounds, get off my ass and exercise more, and really target the gut with foods and my powder mixes and probiotics and a few other supplements, do it for 90 days and retest in mid-March.

With me ruck.

Update: Well, the truce didn't last long. I have permanently severed all ties with Ms. Liu:

Fear of Raw Potato Starch Ingestion is Probably Irrational

Cooking, Cooling, and Reheating Starches For Even More Digestive Resistance

One of the more common questions we've had since the very beginning of the Resistant Starch Explosion is: if cooling your cooked starches (e.g., potatoes, rice, beans, pasta) increases the resistant starch (retrograded RS3), will reheating it destroy it?

It was Tim Steele who came up with the info that not only does it not destroy the RS3, successive cooling and reheating actually increases it—though the the first cycle is by far the biggest bang.

Well, so now we have some testing on real people, using pasta: Is reheated pasta less fattening?

The volunteers were randomised to eating either hot, cold or reheated pasta on different days.

On one day they got to eat the pasta, freshly cooked, nice and hot with a plain but delicious sauce of tomatoes and garlic.

On another day they had to eat it cold, with the same sauce, but after it had been chilled overnight.

And on a third day they got to eat the pasta with sauce after it had been chilled and then reheated.

So what did happen?

Well we were fairly confident the cold pasta would be more resistant than the stuff that had been freshly cooked and we were right.

Just as expected, eating cold pasta led to a smaller spike in blood glucose and insulin than eating freshly boiled pasta had.

But then we found something that we really didn't expect - cooking, cooling and then reheating the pasta had an even more dramatic effect. Or, to be precise, an even smaller effect on blood glucose.

In fact, it reduced the rise in blood glucose by 50%.

So there you have it. Short & simple, too.

It makes me wonder if this is why I didn't get fat eating all that pasta at the mom & pop Sicilian place down the street from my flat when I lived in France. I'd walk down 2-3 times per week and if it wasn't a wood fired pizza, it was a bowl of pasta. But I recall one evening asking their son, Salvatore (who's limonadier he gave me when I left is still used to open wine around here, 22 years later), how they do their pasta so quickly, in single batches.

They precook it and put it in the fridge. Then they reheat in salty, boiling water, portion by portion. Go figure.

Update: OK, found the actual program website, as well as the short video segment.

And here's a chart I clipped.

Screen Shot 2014 10 16 at 11 38 58 AM
Dramatic!

Update 2: This appears to work for freezing and toasting bread, too.

The impact of freezing and toasting on the glycaemic response of white bread.

CONCLUSIONS: All three procedures investigated, freezing and defrosting, toasting from fresh, and toasting following freezing and defrosting, favourably altered the glucose response of the breads. This is the first study known to the authors to show reductions in glycaemic response as a result of changes in storage conditions and the preparation of white bread before consumption. In addition, the study highlights a need to define and maintain storage conditions of white bread if used as a reference food in the determination of the glycaemic index of foods.

Squinting At A Specifically General View of the Gut Microbiome

This was my very first post of more than 100 by now, April of 2013, that began my evolution in thinking about the gut microbiome: Prepare for the “Resistant Starch” Assimilation; Resistance is Futile. Yes, the narrative was initially somewhat hyperbolic, silver-bullet, miracle cure and all. I'll cop to all of it.

I am primarily an integrator, synthesizer, and promoter of things that make evolutionary sense to me and I always kick off with a bang. But I'm also the least intransigent blogger you'll ever meet. I expect being half or more wrong from the outset. Rather than spend endless hours, days, weeks and months checking all my jots and tittles in a self-deluded effort to not be wrong about anything (completely futile, because you're always wrong about something), I go full shotgun and brace for the criticism and constructive critique:

THESIS ---> ANTITHESIS ---> SYNTHESIS ---> NEOTHESIS (WRR)

(^ Wash, Rinse, Repeat—ad infinitum)

This manner of dialectic saves time, teaches more people faster—in fact, we all learn together, collaboratively—is an honest process, and seems to me to be the most natural way to build increasingly complex and closer-to-truth hierarchies of quality* knowledge (* See my AHS12 presentation: Paleo Epistemology and Sociology).

It is for this reason that in terms of most of my posts, I do not delve into "excruciating" detail. For instance, I'm typically not talking about a specific 1-in-1,000 species of a gut bacteria, unless it's a well identified pathogen run amok like C. diff, after a round of antibiotics (the antibiotics being the general issue—specific, to highlight general). Similarly, I don't dwell on deeply dysfunctional guts but rather, on the vast majority of guts, some better than others, but always with the idea of improving whatever you begin with—never achieving perfection.

Shotguns usually hit the bullseye, too.

I've done a number of podcast interviews over this last year or so, most about Resistant Starch. The truth is, I didn't have any idea at the outset whether RS would pan out at all, be the Next Big Thing, or more likely, be a very important specific piece of the general puzzle. I now believe it's the latter.

So, with that, here's my latest podcast interview. It's with Will Barron of Upgraded Ape, one of of those biohacking folks. Upgrade your gut biome for improved brain performance. Talking resistant starches and fish with Richard Nikoley. While RS is in the title, I can assure you that I took a far more general track with it.

  1. I take pains to emphasize that whatever devils are in details, it's the enormous complexity of the gut microbiome that's the important thing.
  2. That focussing on very specific things in terms of specific pathogens, overgrowths, etc., is the province of clinicians with clinical experience that builds with practice and is applied to more and more specific and identifiable problems.
  3. That while experimenting and supplementing with RS and dirt-based probiotics is fine, not generally harmful (suggestions that it is, are bullshit), it is nonetheless likely best to get most prebiotics from various foods, and probiotics from being less sanitary, a bit more dirty. But supplementation, while not ideal, is better than nothing.

Alright, take a listen, and if you've heard some of my earlier interviews that focussed primarily on resistant starch, tell me if I haven't upgraded my specific views in general.

Now, let's squint some more. This post was formulated only an hour ago, when I read Jeff Leach's account of taking it up the butt for science, over morning coffee and an American Spirit ciggie: (Re)Becoming Human: what happened the day I replaced 99% of the genes in my body with that of a hunter-gatherer.

When he announced his planned DIY fecal transplant some while back on the Human Food Project's Facebook, I thought he was deeply confounding variables. I suggested that a better first step would be to bed down and swap bodily fluids and microbes with a Hadza woman for some months as a first step (interest of science, y'know?) and only then take some Hadza guy's shit up his butt. 'Butt' it is what it is.

Anyway, take a good read at that post. I was going to do some excerpts and comment on them, but I don't want anyone to miss the forrest through the trees. In short, I'm now a much bigger fan of Leach, and it's this bit of writing that did it for me. Take particular note of the vast differences between a Hadza gut and an American gut.

Keep squinting, Jeff. Good work, anxious to see the ultimate results.

...To wrap it up, it's easy, in hindsight, to say that supplementing RS in forms like potato starch is "bad." It's complete bullshit, and I'll tell you why.

  1. It's not harmful. How can it be harmful to ingest a real food fraction?
  2. People in general Paleo/RealFood have been talking about prebiotics for-fucking-ever. Onions, Garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, bla bla bla.
  3. Nobody really listened and when they did, it was chest beating over a coupla grams. It was only ever predominately about bacon, grilled meat, and added spoonfuls of coconut fat and grassfed butter.
  4. SAD dieters get way more fermentable fibers than "Paleo" peeps (which isn't saying a lot in an H-G scenario not even ridiculously and fantastically focussed on the way outlier Inuit). And H-Gers get way more than SAD.

But for my last point, it goes back to the way above. Nobody has any tolerance for being only half right. This is always a mistake. Always. Prebiotics have been jerked off about forever, but nobody paid real attention.

Until fucking potato starch and suddenly, there are many thousands worldwide doing so. But that's a specific thing. What's the general thing they learned is that when they took some isolated RS2, they observed first hand that:

  1. It had profound effects that cut through the signal/noise ratio on many gut levels.
  2. Results for the vast majority were positive, over time.

Sorry, I have this quirky fault where I think that giving folks valid generalities, they run with it and create their own specifics. I'm no hand holder. Fucking annoying, time wasting, and manufactures and maintains dependence.

So, some will doubtless stay with the potato starch supplementation forever and call it a day. Optimal? Probably not. But, some folks will always just supplement vitamin D rather than get out in the sun. Optimal? No, but only a stupid fucktarded miscreant would suggest that they ought not then supplement with vitamin D.

Potato starch supplementation in isolation has changed the landscape in many ways. That's a simple fact. But you watch. There will be many coming on line to tell you it's not a good idea and that all the foods they used to shun are the way to go—as though they came up with the idea.

Well, biting feeding hands has always been the province of latching-on leeches.

Cold Rice and Bean Salad

I arrived back to San Jose yesterday afternoon, after a week away giving Beatrice time off from attending to two very spoiled and ornery rat terriers (she spoiled them; see how charitable I am IRL?).

Checked email when I got back and a blog reader, Brian, had a link for me: Rice and Bean Resistant Starch Salad; a post at Food Renegade by  Shannon Stonger (wouldn't it be cool if she was 'Shannon Stronger' or, 'Shannon Stoner'?).

I looked around. Bea had a pot of pinto beans in the fridge, and the rice cooker was on the countertop, with a full load from the night before. Hmmm, beans & rice dish? I'm in. After a quick surveillance of what else there was on hand, I set off to the market.

All I needed was two large heirloom tomatoes (I got a big red and a big yellow) a big [h]ass avocado, and a block of cheddar cheese. It calls for Mexican oregano, but I had Greek, which is the closest. Substitute a little lime juice for some of the vinegar and you'll approximate that lemon verbena thingy (I googled it on my iPhone 6, in the store).

See her full recipe here.

My variations:

  1. the rice was Ben's Parboiled. Doubt it makes any difference. It's just starch.
  2. went with 2 tsp of sea salt instead of 1 1/4.
  3. 1/2 tsp cayenne instead of 1/4.
  4. for the vinegar, used juice of a whole lime, 1 TBS coconut vinegar, and 2 TBS ACV.
  5. recipe calls for black beans or whatever your preference. I had pintos, but bought a can of black at the market which when drained, was 1 1/2 cup of the 3 cups called for. So, half pinto, half black.

The recipe doesn't specify, but you want to drain the beans of their liquid. Ought be obvious, but you never know. Some people do beans more like soup, so you want to start off the same.

My only thing I'd do different next time is to go with less onion. Recipe calls for a medium, the two I had were large and I picked the smallest one. Bit more chunky raw onion than I'd have preferred. Beatrice, on the other hand, loved it more than I. Definitely go with doubling the cayenne if you at all like a little kick. Even still, it's a small kick.

IMG 2682
Yea, it's a lot

So, there you have a week's worth of starchy, side-dish substrate for your proteins for lunch and dinner, for two people; and it's as cheap as sewer water.

IMG 2684
Yin Yang. Grace and Evil.

...I really loved the idea of a whole avocado for the dressing substrate (as opposed to mayonnaise, which I hate to make). Word of caution: if you go with the 2 tsp salt as I did, the dressing will be very salty. Remember, it's to dress a lot of stuff. You'll not need to add any more salt.

Potential future variations: Olives? How about fresh cilantro, either as garnish or in the dish itself?

Thinking Out Loud: Resistant Starch in Beans vs. Soaking Beans

Alright, here's the brain teaser.

So, since the beginning of this Resistant Starch Revolution, I was in San Jose all the time and did all the cooking of beans. And like a dutiful respecter of Wise Traditions methods, I always soaked them (mom and grand moms did too, when I was a kid). On the other hand, my Mexican-heritage mother-in-law scoffs. Mexicans apparently dump their beans in a pot, add water and cook them. Side note: they always taste far better than my soaked ones (soaking liquid discarded) and make way better refried beans.

Now that I'm away about half the time, Beatrice cooks her own beans—just like her mom taught her.

So here's the deal. My beans? Little to no fartage. Bea's beans? Substantial fartage, unless you eat them daily, in which case—for me at least—it subsides.

Remind you of anything?

Hypothesis: soaking beans ferments them to where certain bacteria strains pre-consume various fibers (including the RS2) and the by-product is the bubbles you see on top of your soaking liquid that you discard and that don't end up in your colon where said by-products are available to co-feeders and whatever else benefit you might get. Alternatively, or both, soaking activates certain enzymatic processes whereby RS2 is consumed, much as it is in the ripening of a green banana that's full of RS2; but that's what fuels ripening such than when it's yellow, little to no more RS.

Alright, theorize away. Destroy my hypothesis if you can. After all, the only thing I can ever be truly certain about is when I'm absolutely wrong.

What ought I call this? How about: The Pre-Farted Beans Hypothesis? The gasses end up in the air you breathe, not in your colon where they do the most good.

Update: a Twitter follower sent along this: Soaking the common bean in a domestic preparation reduced the contents of raffinose-type oligosaccharides but did not interfere with nutritive value.

Abstract

The objective of this study was to verify the effect of soaking on the factors causing flatulence in the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris, L.) cv. IAC-Carioca during domestic preparation. A biological assay using recently weaned (21 days) male Wistar rats provided the Food Conversion Efficiency (FCE) and the Net Protein Ratio (NPR). Five treatments were carried out with isocaloric (350.9 +/- 37.9 kcal/100 g) and isoprotein (12.0 +/- 0.5%) experimental diets, with the following protein sources: beans cooked without soaking (BNS), beans soaked and cooked with the soaking water (BSWW), beans soaked and cooked without the residual soaking water (BSNW), control diet (casein) (CC), casein plus the total soluble solids found in the soaking water (CSS) for comparative purposes, and an aproteic diet (AP) for corrective purposes, all diets offered ad libitum. The contents of raffinose-type oligosaccharides were determined in the different domestic preparations of the beans. Significant reductions were observed in the contents of the oligosaccharides raffinose (25.0%), stachyose (24.8%), and verbascose (41.7%), and in the contents of total sugars (80.6%), reducing sugars (58.2%), nonreducing sugars (90.3%), and starch (26.8%) when soaking took place before cooking and elimination of the soaking water not absorbed by the beans (BSNW) was used. No significant difference (p > 0.05) was observed between the values for FCE and NPR of the control diet (casein) and control diet plus soaking water soluble solids. Neither was any significant difference between the values for the different bean treatments found, though the values for FCE and NPR were lower than those obtained for casein treatments. Thus it was verified that although the domestic preparation of the common bean significantly reduced the contents of raffinose-type oligosaccharides, total reducing and nonreducing sugars and starch, it did not interfere with its nutritive value.

"[D]id not interfere with nutritive value." Well, at least not for the human cell 10% of us. :)

The Incredible Edible Tigernut

Having touched on the Tigernut previously, I thought it time for a complete review to encompass not only the aspects of its evolutionary roots in the human diet and impressive nutrition—both macro and micro—but also practical applications in our everyday lives. On that note, I have some interesting Tigernut food and drink experiences to share with you.

The Roots of the Root

One thing that always seemed a bit mysterious to me in the general human evolutionary narrative is how, nutritionally, our hominin ancestors were able to evolve to such extremes (ref: expensive tissue hypothesis and Kleiber's law). Briefly, as the story goes, millions of years ago, our ape ancestors with their small brains and gigantic guts climbed down from the trees where they spent most of their time eating (since leaves aren't nutritionally dense) and were able to acquire the nutritional density to eventually grow large brains and correspondingly small guts by scavenging stuff left over from predator kills, such as marrow and brain.

But how to get from A to B, without some intermediate step? What if, for example, there was a plant that could deliver this nutritional density, and far from being hit & miss like finding predator leftovers, it was as plentiful as invasive weeds and as easy to harvest as pulling them from soft, moist soil?

Tigernuts (Cyperus esculentus)

Earlier this year, new research was published that stemmed from research on the eating patterns of baboons. In a nutshell, a mystery was solved as to why isotope analysis suggested that "Nutcracker Man" (Paranthropus boisei) consumed a vast amount of grass (C4 plant sources). Why it was mysterious is that here, you have a larger-brained, smaller-gutted hominin eating essentially a diet similar to the leaves in trees; so where was the nutritional density coming from to grow and support this big brain with its important energy requirements? It wasn't the grass, but the tubers in the soil, the roots.

Ancient human ancestor 'Nutcracker Man' lived on tiger nuts

Previous research using stable isotope analyses suggests the diet of these homimins was largely comprised of C4 plants like grasses and sedges. However, a debate has raged over whether such high-fibre foods could ever be of sufficiently high quality for a large-brained, medium-sized hominin.

Dr Macho's study finds that baboons today eat large quantities of C4 tiger nuts, and this food would have contained sufficiently high amounts of minerals and vitamins, and the fatty acids that would have been particularly important for the hominin brain. [...]

Tiger nuts, which are rich in starches, are highly abrasive in an unheated state. Dr Macho suggests that hominins' teeth suffered abrasion and wear and tear due to these starches. The study finds that baboons' teeth have similar marks, giving clues about their pattern of consumption. In order to digest the tiger nuts and allow the enzymes in the saliva to break down the starches, the hominins would need to chew the tiger nuts for a long time. All this chewing put considerable strain on the jaws and teeth, which explains why 'Nutcracker Man' had such a distinctive cranial anatomy.

I suspect that the abrasion observed on teeth is because 1) it was a staple food being consumed in great quantity, and 2) likely not always washed or rinsed and so abrasion was partially from soil (probiotics). Plus, if you soak the unpeeled ones as I do, for 24-48 hours, they take on a soft but snappy water chestnut texture.

But here's the real evolutionary kicker for me, in addition to the nutrition, which we'll cover next.

The Oxford study calculates a hominin could extract sufficient nutrients from a tiger nut-based diet – i.e. around 10,000 kilojoules or 2,000 calories a day, or 80% of their required daily calorie intake – in two and half to three hours. This fits comfortably within the foraging time of five to six hours per day typical for a large-bodied primate. [emphasis added]

Consider that an average male gorilla eats 50 pounds of leafy and stalky plant matter per day. Scale that to your own weight, then figure how much time it would take you. So, the question arrises to me:

Are H. sapiens big brains and small guts an evolutionary product of high density nutrition, or free time?

What happens when you have more discretionary time? Or, perhaps more poignantly: what happens when members of a society have more free time? You could describe lots of things but creativity rather encompasses all, and is not the human story one of creativity? Freed from having to literally spend all waking hours pursuing and eating food, we're unique; the consequences are manifest all around us.

So, in a primitive hominin setting, we're talking about free time that changes social structures: ushers in collaboration in foraging, tool development and use, and enhances various division of labor dynamics including the trapping and hunting of animals—all kinds of those things that contribute to a growth in intelligence and brain size. Don't forget that we're talking time scales in the millions of years.

So, I don't think it's any longer an easy answer of: we scavenged predator kills for marrow and brain, and grew big brains. I think it means that starch is also an inexorable piece of that evolution. It's perhaps not the only answer, but it's decidedly a big piece of the puzzle for anyone looking honestly.

The Root Nutrition

The most glaring aspect of the overall nutrition is its macronutrient partitioning. First, let's look at mammalian breast milk in general, a rule of thumb I always think is smart to keep in mind:

  • 50 - 60% fat
  • 25 - 40% carbohydrate
  • 5 - 20% protein

Tigernuts:

  • 51% fat
  • 42% carbohydrate
  • 7% protein

Human breast milk:

  • 51% fat
  • 39% carbohydrate
  • 6% protein

Perhaps these Tigernuts were misnamed, and ought to have been called Tigermilk?

Moving onto micronutrients, all the detailed charts are in this previous post, but in summary:

  • Of 18 core micronutrients, Tigernuts (a tuber) outweigh potatoes in 16 of them (Vit C the only thing potatoes have more of) and in one, neither have any (B12).
  • Compared with red meat, Tigernuts outweigh beef in 10 of them, are less in 5, and in 2 (Vitamin A, B12) have none. Vitamin D is listed as "trace" in beef, but that's as good as none.

So, Tigernuts are more nutritious—in 56% of nutrients—over red meat (beef liver is a different story—Tigernuts being more nutritious in only 22% of nutrients). I remind you, folks: we're talking about a plant here, a starchy tuber: more nutritious in vitamins and minerals than red meat generally. And, did I mention? It's a starchy tuber. Moreover, it's more reliable and far easier to harvest than just about anything you can hunt or fish.

The Root of Eating and Drinking These Tubers

I've recently come across a new purveyor of Tigernuts. They graciously sponsored this post and sent me their products.

Screen Shot 2014 09 23 at 11 24 49 AM
 

Currently, the available product lineup is Organic Raw Tigernuts, Organic Tigernut FlourOrganic Cold-pressed Tigernut Oil, and Horchata de chuffa, made from Tigernuts. In terms of the Horchata, it's currently only available in NYC area Whole Foods. I got all the flavors, via a shipped cold pack; and in response to my admonishment after tasting, they are working on making that option available to anyone, via their own website.

Let me tell you: both Beatrice and I loved the Unsweetened the best, more than Original that's lightly sweetened (with non-gmo organic California medjool dates). We also loved the Chai. But my personal favorite was the Coffee. Perhaps the most delicious and lite iced coffee I've ever had.

One issue in terms of a marketable horchata product is that there's sediment. This is resistant starch—behaves exactly the same way as if you'd dumped a tsp of potato starch into it. Once it settles, it settles pretty firmly. The company is weighing where to go with that: "clean" it up for the consumer, or tout the benefits. I've advised them to get rooted now, as it is, then later make a sterile version for the other 90% of pampered America.

In terms of RS content, here's the go-to source for you geeks. Basically, an RS profile similar to maize, perhaps about half of raw potato by weight. However, this is a good thing because as a raw food, more readily digestible starch for energy is better. Or, to put it another way, you'll get a lot more resistant starch from raw tigernuts than you will from anything else that's cooked and cooled I'm aware of.

Or, you could make your own. If you get hooked, they'll get you a 27.5 lbs Bag. You can really knock yourself out.

horchata
Horchata de chufa

I followed a standard recipe (Google it, pick your fav) but with a serious twist. I added no nothing. I just did the Tigernuts and water (no sugar). I had an interesting result.

Previously, I had experimented with soaking them. I don't want peeled ones, but I'm interested in ways where you can soak the whole ones and get various results. So, I did. Up to 48 hours. It was at the end of that last soak where I serendipitously decided to make horchata. Here's the deal: recipes call for 8-12 hour soakings. This was two days. Folks who soak legumes are well familiar with the bubbles that form on the surface of the water after a day or so. Fermentation. Those are bacteria farts.

I had tons of this with these Tigernuts. Bubbles all over.

What did I get, once I discarded the soaking liquid, rinsed, ground, added fresh water and strained? Something resembling kefir. And it got better with age. When I finished the batch, I tasted and noted not too much sweet, but a slight hint of sour. I put that bottle in the fridge for a whole day before touching it and when I popped it, it popped big. Fermentation. It continued to pop each time I opened it. Carbon dioxide, no doubt.

...I once made a batch of kefir that was so powerful, it self carbonated and had a slight fiz to it. Now I'm wondering if I can naturally carbonate Tigernuts by perhaps using the soaking liquid, perhaps adding just a bit of sugar. Suggestions welcome.

That said, the next batch I do will be with the standard 12-hr soak, just to see if anyone can make it in the standard way, get the standard result.

...Now, folks who've followed me for a long time know my adversity to nut flours. I used them early on in my Paleo journey, but then realized that they are very high in omega-6 fats, a polyunsaturated fat that oxidizes easily—not to mention the balance that ought exist between pro-infalamatory n-6, and anti-inflammatory n-3. Nuts, except for macadamia (ref: Fat Bread), are extraordinarily high in n-6, while being low in n-3. Nuts ought be eaten whole, in my view, not concentrated into flours.

Except for Tigetnut flour! It's actually one of the first documented flours. Egyptians used it to make bread.

@OurTrueRoots has just released their Organic Tigernut Flour to market. I got a preview. Given all the "Paleo" brownies in the universe, I decided to make a somewhat closer version. I've never baked a brownie or cookie in my 53 years, so, I just Googled a standard, highly rated brownie recipe and did 3 things different:

  • Half the sugar called for
  • Substitute all wheat flour for Tigernut flour
  • Chopped up half a bar of 80% cacao dark chocolate and added to the batter
brownie
Zero difference

They were still too sweet for me, making my next excursion a sugar-free one. Tigernuts are naturally quite sweet, so this should really focus the minds of some of you "Paleo" bakers out there. That said, they were...brownies. I seriously doubt there would be a statistical significance in a blind-taste-test against standard, wheat flour brownies.

I will make a prediction: within a year, nobody will be using nut flours for baked "Paleo Treats." They'll be using this—a tuber flour and I'll be a little less outraged. Incidentally, the flour is raw. The tigernuts are sun dried and ground up. That's it.

There's one additional product that might interest you, Organic Cold-pressed Tigernut Oil.

photo
Tigernut Oil

To my mind, this is going to be their biggest hit, after the flour. The fat profile is roughly similar to olive oil, without the Italian Mafia fraud. Everyone ought resolve to never purchase another ounce of Italian "olive" oil. I don't. I buy Greek (and it's superior on every level anyway).

But this is quite a different thing, not better or worse. I only cook with animal fats, coconut and palm oils, owing to the paucity of PUFA. Olive and now, Tigernut oil, get used raw.

And on that score, this one really makes the grade. I have tested it with a little vinegar on lettuce, and a water cracker dipped in it. High marks on both. It's difficult to say much more, simply because oil is such an ubiquitous commodity. I'd simply say that you'll want to be having this in your kitchen tool bag, along with the Greek EVOO.

You can see more cooking applications here, with pictures: breaded liver, trout, and an emulsification with the oil.

This post had been brought to you by Our True Roots. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I got into writing it.

Probiotic Fibers And Flatulence; My N=1

Way back in the beginning of experimenting with resistant starch via supplemental potato starch the most common side effect by far was rather impressive amounts of gas, or "fartage," for most people.

Some couldn't tolerate it while others, like myself couldn't help but laugh uproariously. Unless you've experienced it yourself, it's tough to describe the volume and frequency it can induce—and often for a solid day or more. A couple of times, for myself, it was also accompanied by more than mild intestinal discomfort.

But I persisted and over time, it just went away, even with large doses of potato starch. Later, I even added things to my "cocktail" like inulin and fructo-oligo-saccharidesglucomannanbanana flourplantain flour, and took them with my go-to, dirt-based probiotics (Prescript-AssistAOR Probiotic-3, and Primal Defense Ultra). And everything was pretty cool, as relayed here.

A while back, I relayed my experience of being in moving upheaval and eating crappy for about a month. That was in conjunction with taking absolutely no supplements at all, including any of the aforementioned.

Yesterday I got curious. If I supplement the probiotic fibers again, will I be back to fartage square one?

Went and got some raw milk, fresh squeezed orange juice, and some organic apple cider vinegar from a local whole-food co-op here in Placerville, CA. First, I took a shot of the vinegar and chased it with the OJ.

Then I made a cocktail with raw milk as the base and a handy stick blender:

  • 4 TBS Potato Starch
  • 2 TBS Banana Flour
  • 1/2 tsp Inulin/FOS Powder
  • 3 1g-caps Glucomannan

I took it with 1 capsule each of the three probiotics and waited for the fog to roll in. But it didn't. In fact, it never did at all. No foghorn required. I felt fine, clear, and it seemed that I was breathing easier from my nose. The only "negative" I experienced is that I guess I must have been unwittingly retaining water, because from about 9PM, and for the next 12 hours, I must have pissed out a gallon of water. So, here I am, having detailed, lucid dreams (as has been widely reported by others with PS supplementation) about having to take a piss, trying to find a place, having to stand in line, etc. Luckily I managed to wake up (about 10 times) before my turn came up. Incidentally, this was accompanied by absolutely no thirst at all.

So, bottom line is that the bugs that co-feed on the various gases produced by the ones eating all those fibers seem to have taken up long-term residency in my gut. Very interesting indeed, though somewhat disappointing on the entertainment front.

Anyone have similar or different experiences?

Update: Supplemental reading: Does Dirt Make You Happy?

Logic 101: Why The Resistant Starch And Gut Biome Revolution Means Doom For VLC/Keto

It has gone way beyond an embrace of resistant starch. Back in the day—meaning about a year ago—my Google alerts delivered webstuff on RS a coupla times per week, at best. Now, it's a half dozen per day as the world comes to realize the enormity of the gut's profound influence on health in the very general. RS is but one element, but a very important one: easy to see results fast and cheap.

...Lafably, you still have people writing only about the Krebs Cycle, the hormones leptin and insulin, "signaling," and "PATHWAYS!!!!" et al. You see, I take criticism because I never put you to sleep with that sort of deconstruction minutiae. Let those who blog that stuff have their geek followers. Don't care. Never did.

PATHWAYS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

More fish, troll I.

I've come to receive more and more comments from VLC/Keto proponents trying to be conciliatory about it—cool enough, progress, etc. I don't mean to pick on rs711; it's merely the latest, and the one that inspired this post specifically.

150g of CHO is too much for more and more people.

This is absurd.

But, I'll explain nicely. A comment along the same lines—trying to reconcile the irreconcilable—put this forth:

I don’t know why the keto/low carb community will not just choose to integrate RS. As you point out some already have. Why not the rest? How long will it be until RS supplements start appearing in stores?

My reply:

Because, they understand quite well that embracing it is like welcoming Barbarians at the gate of the Castle.

Bank on it.

...I’ll elaborate just a bit to give you a clue as to why this is and why RS is a zero-win for VLC/Keto.

Should it turn out that supplementation via things like PS, green plantain/banana flour, etc., help folks, then it takes no genius to conclude that they were fucktarded from day one. Or, ignorant-fucktarded, to be more magnanimous.

Nobody had access to isolated RS in human evolution. Ergo, starch consumption in various forms is a more appropriate dietary regime.

Resistant starch is a Trojan Horse for the VLC/Keto crowd. They know that very well, and it's why you see such vigorous defense of VLC/Keto all over—which, I dismiss entirely; because, I know what it is, and why it is. I'm pretty good at knowing in what to invest my energies. Duh. Try to protect an investment in a dietary regime from the 1970s that turns out to be wrong because unknowns weren't integrated, or try to understand more and more about the gut biome; where, incidentally, 100% of the revelations point to the benefits of real-food carbohydrate in the diet?

Place your bets. LC/Keto are Buggy Whips, but go ahead and try to keep the industry alive.

So, that's really the most fundamentally logical reason why VLC/Keto is now doomed: the rapidly emerging science of the gut biome that heretofore, has been 100% unaccounted for.

Moreover, this logically means that Paleo advocates ought divorce from LCers and lend no more support. It is simply the Law of Identity—i.e., of non-contradiction—that LC is about restricting a macronutrient (carbohydrate) no matter what, and Paleo is about understanding the appropriate human diet via ever developing knowledge about not only what was eaten but now, gut microbiology that dovetails quite nicely with the developing evolutionary and anthropological knowledge in other areas.

The puzzle is coming together, which is the essence of the Paleo paradigm qua foundational template.

Want a belly laf? Human mother's milk is about 30% sugar.

We should have known, eh?

Alright, the second part of the logical equation is more practical, lo, pernicious. You see, the VLC/Keto advocates have had a trick up their sleeves for decades to fool you. It goes like this:

  1. Do an Atkin's style Induction Diet for 2 or more weeks
  2. Measure ketones; pee purple
  3. Test your blood glucose regularly, especially after meals
  4. Freak out when you next eat some carbs and see your BG readings

A self-fulfilling, baked-in-the-cake scam of confirmation bias.

Here's the thing.

When you go ketogenic—either by LCHF (low protein too) or fasting—you develop physiological insulin resistance. Because your brain requires upwards of 130 grams daily of glucose, then if you're not ingesting it because LC-Guru, your body—as an evolutionary survival adaptation in the face of perceived starvation—makes it from protein (even your heart muscle if it has to; welcome to the optimal chronic dietary regime). But, it also guards glucose like Fidel Castro holds onto 1950s communism. To do that, it gives you a form of metabolic syndrome. It's analogous to the physiological "Type 2 Diabetes" of a bear in late fall, about to hibernate for 5 months.

What's the result? It's that, in the way VLC/Keto is promoted now, you have been admonished to monitor your blood glucose regularly. Of course, everyone knows everyone cheats and when you do let Satan into your bed with that piece of your child's birthday cake, WHAM! You're minimally pre-diabetes, if not type 2.

You have self diagnosed. You can no more eat any carbs than a couch potato who fears a heart rate of over 100 bpm can climb a flight of stairs. I suppose that couch potato would be analogous to a low-carb butter ball.

Guess what? This isn't just speculation on my part. I have scienzez to show you.

  1. Way back in 1928, 1936, and 1972, three very similar experiments were conducted on Inuit living their traditional diets. The results were identical even though the testing methods improved. They gave them a huge bolus dose of glucose and unlike you LCers who can't "climb a flight of stairs," they displayed normal physiologic glucose tolerance, spiking to about 140 mg/dL, perfectly normal. Cleard within a couple of hours. Then, they put them on an 80 hour fast in order to induce unequivocal ketosis. Gave them the same glucose. They spiked to 400 and 3 hours later, some were still over 300. My post on it: To Reiterate, Just In Case You Missed It: No Elevated Ketone Levels in the Inuit.
  2. Ironically, Vilhjalmur Stefansson—the guy who popularized the arctic and Inuit for countless VLC/Keto advocates—tested out exactly the same after his Belleview experiment. Crap ability to handle glucose after the year, restored to normal after 3 weeks on a nomal diet: More Uncovering of the Inuit Myth: Stefansson and Anderson Belleview Experiement; Compromised Glucose Tolerance.

At what point are people of good sense going to recognize that the new knowledge of the gut biome and its requirement for much fermentable fiber is a complete game changer (VLC/Keto is just a small aspect, though the very most wrong of everybody on this point)? At what point, as well, are people of good sense going to recognize that VLC/Keto has been a convenient, baked-in-the-cake scam (unintentionally, but the convenience exists) all along by creating physiological insulin resistance that by means of admonishments to measure blood glucose regularly, is then used anecdotally to convince people that carbohydrates are bad?

But you know what? All you VLC/Keto folks are welcome to continue. I love beating you up, and I don't need to recite PATHWAYS!!!!! from textbooks to do it.

Dear Mark: Thank You! (Resistant Starch Doesn’t Actually Cause Colon Cancer)

Easily the subject of most emails, tweets, FB messages and comments directed at me over the last week or so has been about this recent study: Gut microbial metabolism drives transformation of msh2-deficient colon epithelial cells.

I glanced at it and my immediate sense was: "unbridled reductionism." I don't see much utility in reducing things to isolation, disregarding other factors. In this case, it's important to consider all the benefits and downsides to resistant starch and then weigh them to get an overall view. In other words, the only way this study has relevance in my view is for people whose #1 goal in life is to prevent colon cancer at all cost or discomfort.

Anyway, given my recent moving activities I was unable to spend any time on it. Them commenter Gemma said this of the study and I kinda just nodded and put it out of my mind:

As usual, the circumstances and the concentration matter. It is rather complex. My take.

Read the study cited in the study you linked:

The Warburg Effect Dictates the Mechanism of Butyrate-Mediated Histone Acetylation and Cell Proliferation

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1097276512007770

We are speaking tumour cells, not healthy cells.

Butyrate concentration differs in proximal / distant colon, and it's significantly lower deep in the crypts, where the neoplasmatic cells are formed. TOO LITTLE butyrate does not inhibit proliferation of a tumour cell, it is rather used up as fuel. Increase butyrate, and the proliferation is inhibited. Especially increase butyrate content at the distal part of the colon, where most of the colorectal cancer starts. (No, it won’t happen by eating more butter).

Haven’t you already heard it here?

In other words, if there is already a tumour cell at the bottom of the crypt and there is too little butyrate reaching it, there is no inhibition.

“Butyrate is an attractive candidate for chemotherapy or chemoprevention because it selectively inhibits tumor growth and has minimal adverse effects in clinical trials (Pouillart, 1998). However, the efficacy of butyrate as a chemotherapeutic agent has been limited by its rapid uptake and metabolism by normal cells (resulting in a half-life of 6 min and peak blood levels below 0.05 mM [Miller et al., 1987]) before reaching tumors (Pouillart, 1998). More stable butyrate derivatives such as tributyrin have also not been successful on a consistent basis (Pouillart, 1998). A fiber-rich diet might be more successful for chemoprevention because it delivers mM levels of butyrate (via the microbiota) to the correct place (the colon) before the onset or at an early stage of tumorigenesis. Evidence for this idea comes from recent human studies demonstrating lower levels of butyrate-producing bacteria among the gut microbiota of colorectal cancer patients compared to healthy participants (Balamurugan et al., 2008; Wang et al., 2012), and studies showing an inverse correlation between fecal butyrate levels and tumor size in colorectal cancer (Boutron-Ruault et al., 2005; Monleón et al., 2009).”

And now today, Mark Sisson delves deep into the matter: Dear Mark: Does Resistant Starch Cause Colon Cancer?

From my reading of the research, resistant starch (and the resultant butyrate) has an overall beneficial, preventive effect on colon cancer risk. That relationship may change or become more complicated in advanced colon cancer, and the story may be entirely different for people carrying the MSH2 mutation from today’s highlighted study, but that remains to be seen. For now, I’m still incorporating RS into my diet.

If you’re worried, ask your doctor about getting an MSH2 status test. And review your family history of cancer. Was it colon? Was it a DNA repair mismatch-related case? Even if you do have the MSH2 mutation and a family history of Lynch Syndrome, don’t fear fermentable fibers, resistant starches, and butyrate. Your colonic cells run on butyrate. It’s their primary energy source. And all the other myriad benefits of prebiotics remain relevant. Besides, this is one study. It’s not proof or confirmation of anything. Not yet.

Alright, water's safe. Everyone can get back in the pool, now.

Note: I'm currently drafting a ginormous post revisiting an old friend: The Incredible, Edible Tigernut. For publication later this month.