Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Is Resistant Starch Good for You?

What is resistant starch? I've been hearing a lot about it, but I'm still not sure whether this is something I should add to my diet. Or is it just fiber?

Answer (Published 4/25/2014)

Starches that resist digestion in the small intestine are termed "resistant." When they pass into the large intestine, they are typically degraded through fermentation as the result of the action of bacteria, including Bifidobacterium, Clostridium and Bacteroides, which produce enzymes that can break down resistant starches.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging - Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet! - Everything you need to get started eating a healthful, satisfying diet is here - including eating and shopping guides, over 300 recipes, and an exclusive version of Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid! Start your 14-day free trial now - and start eating anti-inflammatory today!

Resistant starches are estimated to represent at least 10 percent of the food in the typical western diet. They occur in carbohydrate foods, including slightly green bananas, potato starch, legumes, rolled oats, pearl barley, brown rice and fruit. Consuming resistant starches is said to have the following health benefits:

  • Increased intake of dietary fiber, which in turn promotes bowel regularity.
  • Increased satiety that allows you to feel full longer after meals and may help with weight control, although this hasn't been shown in human studies.
  • Fewer energy fluctuations, more stable glycemic levels, greater insulin sensitivity and less insulin resistance.
  • Improvements in digestive health due to increased numbers of beneficial bacteria and fewer harmful bacteria in the colon.

Resistant starches may also help protect against colon cancer, although this, too, hasn't been proven. However, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) the fermentation of resistant starches in the colon can lead to the production of various short chain fatty acids including one called butyrate, which has anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory effects and appears to have antitumor effects as well. A study published in 2013 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggested that greater production of butyrate and other metabolites may explain why colon cancer is less common in native residents of Africa than it is in African Americans.

A review from the University of Colorado Cancer Center suggests that, in the colon, resistant starch promotes the growth of good bacteria while keeping bad bacteria at bay. This may help the body resist colorectal cancer through "mechanisms including killing pre-cancerous cells and reducing inflammation that can otherwise promote cancer."

In a press release accompanying the publication of her review of studies about resistant starch, Janine Higgins, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and an investigator at the University's cancer center, said that foods containing resistant starch must be consumed at room temperature or below because "as soon as you heat (them), the resistant starch is gone." She also suggests that resistant starch may reduce risk of breast cancer. "For example, if you let rats get obese, get them to lose the weight, and then feed half of the rats a diet high in resistant starch -- these rats don't gain back the weight as fast as rats fed a regular, digestible starch diet. This effect on obesity may help to reduce breast cancer risk as well as having implications for the treatment of colorectal cancer."

Most of what we know about resistant starch today comes from animal studies and small clinical trials. But based on what I've read, I think there is value to incorporating some resistant starch in the diet. However, we don't yet have hard evidence that increasing resistant starch intake will help with weight loss.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Janine A. Higgins, Ian L. Brown. "Resistant starch"Current Opinion in Gastroenterology, 2013; 29 (2): 190 DOI: 10.1097/MOG.0b013e32835b9aa3

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here