Professor Denise Robertson discusses resistant starch and the way we think about carbs.
Carbs in the diet, especially if you live with diabetes, seems to split opinion. Although there is no consistent evidence to recommend the ideal amount of carbs for everyone with diabetes, new healthy eating guidelines for the general public recommend that 50% of our daily calories come from carbs. Of course, that isn’t a license to eat lots of sweets and sugar, most of your carbs should be in the form of wholegrains, fruit and vegetables, beans and pulses.
Starch vs sugar
We can store extra glucose for later in a molecule called glycogen in our liver and muscles. This allows us to maintain our blood glucose overnight when we aren’t eating.
Glycogen and starch are very similar, both made up of chains of glucose molecules. So if starch is made up of glucose, how does it differ from sugar? Well, sugars are only made up of one or two glucose molecules. That’s why they can be absorbed very quickly after eating, increasing blood glucose.
By comparison, starch molecules are massive. They can be chains of several million glucose units in length and require two sets of enzymes to break down the chains. Then the glucose can be absorbed and appear in the blood. So the crucial aspect here is time. If all the glucose is absorbed quickly, it will have a greater effect on blood glucose levels.
There are also different types of starches. Refined versions such as white bread tend to be absorbed more quickly compared to wholegrain versions such as brown rice and wholegrain bread.
Dougie Twenefour, our Deputy Head of Care, said:
“It’s an exciting avenue of research, but until we understand more, we recommend a healthy, balanced diet as the best way for people with type 2 to maintain a healthy weight and help to manage their diabetes, and for those with type 1 to lead a healthy lifestyle.
And just a note of caution that it’s very important to follow food safety guidelines when cooling, storing and reheating your food to avoid food poisoning. Go to the home hygiene section of the NHS website for more information.”