Excerpts from THE STARCH SOLUTION by Dr. John McDougall
With all those efficient calories, you would think that starches would promote excess weight gain, but they don’t. That’s because your body efficiently regulates the use of the carbohydrates you get from starch. Even if you consume them in excess, the body will burn them off as heat and energy rather than store much of them as fat.
Worldwide, populations with the highest consumption of starch are the most trim and fit.
Excess Starch Does Not Turn To Body Fat
A widely held myth holds that the sugars in starches are readily converted into fat, which is then stored visibly in our abdomen, hips and buttocks. If you read the public research you will see that there is no disagreement about this whatsoever among scientists, and that they say that this is incorrect! After eating, we break down the complex carbohydrates in starchy foods into simple sugars. These sugars are absorbed into the bloodstream, where they are transported to trillions of cells throughout the body for energy. If you eat more carbohydrates than your body needs, you’ll store up to 2 pounds of it invisibly in the muscles and liver in the form of glycogen. If you eat more carbohydrate than you can use (as your daily energy) and store (as glycogen), you’ll burn the remainder off as body heat and through physical movement other than sports, such as walking to work, typing, yard work and fidgeting.
Turning sugars into fats is a process called de novo lipogenesis. Pigs and cows use this process to convert carbohydrates from grains and grasses into calorie-dense fats. That’s what makes them so appealing as a food source. Bees do it too, converting honey (simple carbohydrate) into wax (fatty acids and alcohols).
We humans, on the other hand, are very inefficient at converting carbohydrate to fat; we don’t do it under normal conditions. (The cost for this conversion is 30 percent of the calories consumed.) Subjects overfed large amounts of simple sugars under experimental laboratory conditions, however, will convert a small amount of carbohydrate to fat. For example, both trim and obese women fed 50 percent more calories than they usually ate in a day, along with an extra 3 ½ ounces (135 grams) of refined sugar, produced less than 4 grams of fat daily (less than 1/8 ounce). That’s just 36 extra calories stored as fat per day. You’d have to overeat all of those extra calories and table sugar every day for nearly 4 months just to gain 1 pound of extra body fat.
In the seventies, researchers from the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department at Michigan State University (my alma mater) asked 16 moderately overweight college-age men to add 12 slices of white bread (at 70 calories a slice) or high fibre bread (at 50 calories a slice) to their diet daily. On average, subjects eating the extra white bread lost 14 pounds (6.26 kg) and those adding the high fibre bread lost 19 pounds (8.77 kg) during the next 8 weeks. Appetite-appeasing breads worked by replacing the easy-to-wear fats found in meats, dairy products, and vegetable oils, causing them to spontaneously, without any additional conscious thought or effort, lose the weight. The general health of these college students also improved as reflected by a very large and rapid reduction in their blood cholesterol levels (by 60 to 80 mg/dL).
The warning about carbohydrates turning to body fat is a myth and nothing more. In humans, even substantial quantities of refined and processed carbohydrates contribute only a trivial amount to body fat. The same is not true of animal and vegetable fats, however. A passenger on a cruise ship gains an average of 8 pounds on a 7-day voyage – caused by dining on buffets of meats, cheese, oil-soaked vegetables, and high fat desserts.
So, where does all the belly fat come from? It bears repeating: The fat you eat is the fat you wear.
Fat Is The Metabolic Dollar Saved For The Next Famine
After you eat dairy, meat, nuts, oils, and other high-fat foods, you absorb their fat from your intestine into the bloodstream. From there, it is transported to billions of adipose (fat) cells for storage. This is a very efficient process: it uses up only 3 percent of the calories you consume to move the fat on your fork and spoon to your body fat. This storage takes place almost effortlessly after every fat-filled meal. If you have your body fat chemically analyzed, it will reveal the kinds of fats you commonly eat. Margarine and shortening, for example, result in high proportions of trans fats in stored body fat. A diet high in cold-water marine fish shows omega-3 fats. The saying “from my lips to my hips” expresses the real-life effect of the Western diet. Fortunately, starches contain very little fat for you to wear.
Starches Help Us To Radiate Vitality
Every year, millions of people lose weight without necessarily improving their health. In fact, these weight-loss methods often cause illness. The best example of this negative effect of dieting is the once-popular Atkins-type, low-carbohydrate, high-protein approach. These diets work by severe carbohydrate deprivation, which causes a state of illness (with the common outcome of ketosis). When people become sick they lose their appetite and lose weight. This method for losing extra pounds is analogous to the weight loss seen in people taking cancer chemotherapy drugs. To the careful observer, people following low-carbohydrate diets look and acts sick, too.
A starch-based diet, on the other hand, brings radiant health along with the loss of excess body fat. Endurance athletes know the benefits of “carb-loading.” In addition to enabling peak performance, a starch-based diet improves blood flow to all tissue in the body. The skin glows with a clear complexion from the improved circulation. A welcome by-product of eating low-fat starches is the elimination of oily skin, blackheads, whiteheads, and acne. From weight loss and the resulting relief from arthritis, people on a starch-based diet feel active, agile and more youthful.