Ray Peat, PhD – Concerns with Starches

Also see:
Collection of Ray Peat Quote Blogs by FPS
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) images of plant cell microparticles in urine sediment
Fermentable Carbohydrates, Anxiety, Aggression
Ray Peat, PhD on Low Blood Sugar & Stress Reaction
Low Blood Sugar Basics
Belly Fat, Cortisol, and Stress
Toxicity of Stored PUFA
PUFA Accumulation & Aging
PUFA Promote Stress Response; Saturated Fats Suppress Stress Response
Ray Peat, PhD on the Benefits of the Raw Carrot
Estrogen, Serotonin, and Aggression
The effect of raw carrot on serum lipids and colon function
Protective Bamboo Shoots
Calcium to Phosphorus Ratio, PTH, and Bone Health
Carbohydrates and Bone Health
Calcium Paradox
Endotoxin-lipoprotein Hypothesis
Endotoxin: Poisoning from the Inside Out
Protection from Endotoxin
Bowel Toxins Accelerate Aging
Protective Cascara Sagrada and Emodin
Fermentable Carbohydrates, Anxiety, Aggression
Intestinal Serotonin and Bone Loss
Autoimmunity and Intestinal Flora
Are Happy Gut Bacteria Key to Weight Loss?

This blog offers a short synopsis of the primary concerns to have with dietary starches. I offer five tips when eating starches at the end of the blog. Italicized quotes are by Ray Peat, PhD.

Bad picture of a potato.

Bad picture of a potato.

1. Because of their glycemia, starches tend to cause blood sugar dysregulation compared to fructose and sugar (sucrose), promoting the effects of adrenaline, cortisol, stored PUFA, endotoxin, and estrogen.

“If you take orange juice with some fat it will be more stabilizing to your blood sugar than the grits and potatoes. Starches increase the stress hormones, interfering with progesterone and thyroid.”

“The polyunsaturated fatty acids, which break down into toxic fragments and free radicals and prostaglandin-like chemicals, are–along with bacterial toxins produced in the intestine–the source of the main inflammatory and degenerative problems. Sugar and the minerals in fruits are fairly effective in keeping free fatty acids from being released from our tissues, and the fats we synthesize from them are saturated, and aren’t likely to be stored as excess fat, because they don’t suppress metabolism (as polyunsaturated fats and some amino acids do). The minerals of fruits and milk contribute to metabolic activation, and prevention of free-radical damage.”

“Rather than the sustained hyperglycemia which is measured for determining the glycemic index, I think the “diabetogenic” or “carcinogenic” action of starch has to do with the stress reaction that follows the intense stimulation of insulin release. This is most easily seen after a large amount of protein is eaten. Insulin is secreted in response to the amino acids, and besides stimulating cells to take up the amino acids and convert them into protein, the insulin also lowers the blood sugar. This decrease in blood sugar stimulates the formation of many hormones, including cortisol, and under the influence of cortisol both sugar and fat are produced by the breakdown of proteins, including those already forming the tissues of the body. At the same time, adrenalin and several other hormones are causing free fatty acids to appear in the blood.”

“It’s the stored PUFA, released by stress or hunger, that slow metabolism.”

2. Starches can feed bacteria in the lower portion of the intestines if not digested quickly, increasing intestinal toxin burden and fermentation of carbohydrates which can stress the liver and produce changes in the metabolic rate, mood, and mediators of inflammation (like serotonin, estrogen, endotoxin). Excessive endotoxin exposure affects the liver’s production of cholesterol (not favorable).

“The upper part of the small intestine is sterile in healthy people. In the last 40 years, there has been increasing interest in the “contaminated small-bowel syndrome,” or the “small intestine bacterial overgrowth syndrome.” When peristalsis is reduced, for example by hypothyroidism, along with reduced secretion of digestive fluids, bacteria are able to thrive in the upper part of the intestine. Sugars are very quickly absorbed in the upper intestine, so starches and fibers normally provide most of the nourishment for bowel bacteria…Thyroid hormone increases digestive activity, including stomach acid and peristalsis, and both thyroid and progesterone increase the ability of the intestine to absorb sugars quickly; their deficiency can permit bacteria to live on sugars as well as starches.”

“Bacterial endotoxin increases serotonin release from the intestine, and increases its synthesis in the brain (Nolan, et al., 2000) and liver (Bado, 1983). It also stimulates its release from platelets, and reduces the lungs’ ability to destroy it. The formation of serotonin in the intestine is also stimulated by the lactate, propionate and butyrate that are formed by bacteria fermenting fiber and starch, but these bacteria also produce endotoxin. The inflammation-producing effects of lactate, serotonin, and endotoxin are overlapping, additive, and sometimes synergistic, along with histamine, nitric oxide, bradykinin, and the cytokines.”

“Starches and fibers support bacterial growth and can increase serotonin.”

“Since cholesterol is the source of progesterone and testosterone (and pregnenolone, DHEA, etc.), and sugar increases it, having fruit rather than starch might increase the hormones. Those hormones, antagonistic to cortisol, can help to reduce waist fat.”

“Sugar helps the liver to make cholesterol, switching from starchy vegetables to sweet fruits will usually bring cholesterol levels up to normal.”

“Besides avoiding foods containing fermentable fibers and starches that resist quick digestion, eating fibrous foods that contain antibacterial chemicals, such as bamboo shoots or raw carrots, helps to reduce endotoxin and serotonin.”

“Bacteria thrive on starches that aren’t quickly digested, and the bacteria convert the energy into bulk, and stimulate the intestine. (But at the same time, they are making the toxins that affect the hormones.)”

“Polysaccharides and oligosaccharides include many kinds of molecules that no human enzyme can break down, so they necessarily aren’t broken down for absorption until they encounter bacterial or fungal enzymes. In a well maintained digestive system, those organisms will live almost exclusively in the large intestine, leaving the length of the small intestine for the absorption of monosaccharides without fermentation. When digestive secretions are inadequate, and peristalsis is sluggish, bacteria and fungi can invade the small intestine, interfering with digestion and causing inflammation and toxic effects.”

3. Starches tend to be more fattening than sugar because of their effect on blood sugar and insulin. A starchy diet in conjunction with the consumption of polyunsaturated fats is a reliable way to produce obesity.

“When the idea of “glycemic index” was being popularized by dietitians, it was already known that starch, consisting of chains of glucose molecules, had a much higher index than fructose and sucrose. The more rapid appearance of glucose in the blood stimulates more insulin, and insulin stimulates fat synthesis, when there is more glucose than can be oxidized immediately. If starch or glucose is eaten at the same time as polyunsaturated fats, which inhibit its oxidation, it will produce more fat. Many animal experiments show this, even when they are intending to show the dangers of fructose and sucrose.”

“Starch is less harmful when eaten with saturated fat, but it’s still more fattening than sugars.”

“Starch and glucose efficiently stimulate insulin secretion, and that accelerates the disposition of glucose, activating its conversion to glycogen and fat, as well as its oxidation. Fructose inhibits the stimulation of insulin by glucose, so this means that eating ordinary sugar, sucrose (a disaccharide, consisting of glucose and fructose), in place of starch, will reduce the tendency to store fat. Eating “complex carbohydrates,” rather than sugars, is a reasonable way to promote obesity. Eating starch, by increasing insulin and lowering the blood sugar, stimulates the appetite, causing a person to eat more, so the effect on fat production becomes much larger than when equal amounts of sugar and starch are eaten. The obesity itself then becomes an additional physiological factor; the fat cells create something analogous to an inflammatory state. There isn’t anything wrong with a high carbohydrate diet, and even a high starch diet isn’t necessarily incompatible with good health, but when better foods are available they should be used instead of starches. For example, fruits have many advantages over grains, besides the difference between sugar and starch. Bread and pasta consumption are strongly associated with the occurrence of diabetes, fruit consumption has a strong inverse association.”

“When starch is well cooked, and eaten with some fat and the essential nutrients, it’s safe, except that it’s more likely than sugar to produce fat, and isn’t as effective for mineral balance.”

“Per calorie, sugar is less fattening than starch, partly because it stimulates less insulin, and, when it’s used with a good diet, because it increases the activity of thyroid hormone.”

“In an old experiment, a rat was tube-fed ten grams of corn-starch paste, and then anesthetized. Ten minutes after the massive tube feeding, the professor told the students to find how far the starch had moved along the alimentary canal. No trace of the white paste could be found, demonstrating the speed with which starch can be digested and absorbed. The very rapid rise of blood sugar stimulates massive release of insulin, and rapidly converts much of the carbohydrate into fat.”

4. Starches lack fructose. Fructose helps raise the metabolic rate and regulate insulin secretion.

“Starch is the only common carbohydrate that contains no fructose.”

“Here’s a currently often cited article which claimed to show that fructose causes ‘insulin resistance’ compared to a starch diet, but careful reading would show that it confirms the powerful protective effect of fructose (and sucrose), since if the greater weight gain of the starch eaters continued beyond the short 5 weeks of the experiment, after a year the starchy rats would have weighed twice as much as the lean sugar eaters. The fructose limits insulin secretion, but intensifies metabolism, burning calories faster.”

5. Starch can irritate the gut lining, and starch granules can enter the bloodstream and urine (persorption) inappropriately. Chronic irritation of the gut lining makes serotonin, endotoxin, nitric oxide, and estrogen serious threats to the metabolism, the liver, and overall well being. Persorption promotes tissue injury and circulatory issues.

“Persorption refers to a process in which relatively large particles pass through the intact wall of the intestine and enter the blood or lymphatic vessels. It can be demonstrated easily, but food regulators prefer to act as though it didn’t exist. The doctrine that polymers–gums, starches, peptides, polyester fat substitutes–and other particulate substances can be safely added to food because they are “too large to be absorbed” is very important to the food industry and its shills.

When the bowel is inflamed, toxins are absorbed. The natural bacterial endotoxin produces many of the same inflammatory effects as the food additive, carrageenan. Like inflammatory bowel disease, the incidence of liver tumors and cirrhosis has increased rapidly. Liver damage leads to hormonal imbalance. Carrageenan produces inflammation and immunodeficiency, synergizing with estrogen, endotoxin and unsaturated fatty acids.”

“In the presence of bacterial endotoxin, respiratory energy production fails in the cells lining the intestine. Nitric oxide is probably the main mediator of this effect.”

“Intestinal inflammation is often behind recurrent tooth infectons, and a daily raw carrot can make a big difference (along with avoiding legumes, undercooked starches and raw or undercooked vegetables).”

“Volkheimer found that mice fed raw starch aged at an abnormally fast rate, and when he dissected the starch-fed mice, he found a multitude of blocked arterioles in every organ, each of which caused the death of the cells that depended on the blood supplied by that arteriole. It isn’t hard to see how this would affect the functions of organs such as the brain and heart, even without considering the immunological and other implications….”

“Tiny particles of insoluble materials — clay, starch, soot, bacteria — are all potential sources of serious inflammatory reactions, and the ultra-small particles are potentially ultra-numerous and harder to avoid.”

“Around 1988 I read Gerhard Volkheimer’s persorption article, and after doing some experiments with tortillas and masa, I stopped eating all starch except for those, then eventually I stopped those. Besides grains of starch entering the blood stream, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid, starch feeds bacteria, increasing endotoxin and serotonin.”

“For people with really sensitive intestines or bad bacteria, starch should be zero.”

6. In some cases, they are high in phosphorus relative to calcium as in grains, beans, and legumes. Sugar is more friendly on mineral balance and bone health relative to starch.

“The foods highest in phosphate, relative to calcium, are cereals, legumes, meats, and fish. Many prepared foods contain added phosphate. Foods with a higher, safe ratio of calcium to phosphate are leaves, such as kale, turnip greens, and beet greens, and many fruits, milk, and cheese.”

“When starch is well cooked, and eaten with some fat and the essential nutrients, it’s safe, except that it’s more likely than sugar to produce fat, and isn’t as effective for mineral balance.”

7. Some are reactive to starches, like the potato, because they are nightshade vegetables.

“When a person has limited money for food, potatoes are a better staple than beans or oats. Starches associated with saponins, alkaloids, and other potentially pro-inflammatory things make them a less than ideal food, if you have digestion-related health problems, and if you can afford to choose. New potatoes are tastier, less starchy, and probably less likely to cause digestive irritation.”

Help with Starches:
1. Gauge your individual reaction to starches vs. sugar. This can take some trial and error. You may find that one helps more than the other in raising the metabolic rate or keeping your metabolic rate up or that having both in your diet is more helpful than either alone.
2. Combine cooked-starches with a animal protein and plenty of saturated fat, like butter. The saturated fat blunts the glycemia of the starches and has anti-microbial effects in the intestines. I boil white potatoes for 40 minutes when making mashed potatoes. I then add butter, salt, and milk for taste and appropriate consistency. Shorter boiling times for me causes intestinal gas. For those that have an allergic reaction to potatoes, in addition to cooking well, skin removal is another step to take to avoid a reaction.
3. Eat a diet that is in favor of the more digestible, micronutrient rich, blood-sugar friendly, sweet-tasting carbohydrates from ripe or cooked fruits, fresh orange juice, milk, and honey. If bowel toxins accelerate the aging process, then a health-preserving diet is low in starch. Additionally, the realities of the persorption of starch granules is a systemic concern that needs further attention considering the amount of starch in the SAD diet from the likes of grains/flour, beans, legumes, and corn.
4. Well-cooked below-ground vegetables, masa harina, and hominy are some of the best starches to consume. The younger versions of below-ground vegetables (i.e. new potatoes or baby beets for example) contain less starch and more sugar compared to the mature plants. White potatoes are a good source of protein especially for vegetarians.
5. If you react well to supplemental powdered fructose, it can be used along side starch-containing meals as a means to regulate blood sugar and encourage liver-glycogen storage and efficient glucose use.

Posted in General.

Tagged with , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

4 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

  1. Gregory Taper says

    Good stuff

  2. Albie says

    Excellent summary Rob ! Thanks for all the work putting this together from all Ray Peat´s writings and interviews.

  3. Nancy says

    This is very much appreciated, here. Thank you!

  4. Steve says

    Thank you for this Rob. Never get rid of this blog.