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Lose weight: This is how pasta, potatoes and rice make you slim

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Lose weight: This is how pasta, potatoes and rice make you slim

Whether pasta, potatoes or rice – most people love these foods. But because of their high amounts of carbohydrates in the form of starch, they were previously considered fattening foods. A study in the journal “Nature Metabolism” refutes this fear. On the contrary: If you consume carbohydrates every day in a certain form, as so-called resistant starch, it can even help you lose weight.

Carbohydrates sometimes consist of individual sugar molecules, sometimes of several sugar molecules linked into chains. Depending on how many there are in a chain, they are called single, double and multiple sugars. The typical household sugar, sucrose, is a disaccharide that is quickly broken down into simple sugar, glucose, when digested. Starch, on the other hand, is a polysaccharide. Their molecules also consist of glucose, but thousands of them.

Normally they are crushed into simple sugars, so they provide a lot of energy and actually make you fat. But if you leave pasta, potatoes or rice for a day after cooking, the starch changes and crystallizes. In this form, the digestive enzymes in the upper intestine can no longer do anything with it. And, as Chinese researchers have now demonstrated in an impressive experiment, it turns into a weight loss aid.

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As the Shanghai doctors report in the journal “Nature Metabolism,” they included 37 overweight and obese patients with a BMI of over 24 in their study. For eight weeks they received the resistant starch in its pure form, as a powder, namely 40 grams of it. They then stopped using the substance for eight weeks. During the entire time, the study participants were not on a diet, but were given three meals a day, which they should have eaten to maintain their weight.

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But they lost weight as long as they were supplied with the powder, an average of 2.8 kilograms. Since the study participants also had early type 2 diabetes, the doctors also tested how they reacted to insulin: better again, as long as the resistant starch could be found in the food.

Resistant starch keeps you full for longer

This is particularly good news for Germans: traditional dishes, such as potato dumplings, are often rich in resistant starch. Potato flour that is mixed with the freshly cooked potatoes is full of it. And if you love making fried potatoes from the potatoes from the day before, you might be doing something good for yourself.

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The reason: Resistant starch is not broken down by the digestive enzymes in the upper small intestine. Instead, it ends up undigested in the large intestine. On the one hand, this means that lactic acid bacteria can multiply in the large intestine. Resistant starch is a fiber and contributes to better bowel movements. On the other hand, and this is important for figure-conscious people, they cause the blood sugar level to rise more slowly than with the usual starch, less glucose is released and therefore insulin. You feel full for longer.

If you don’t like dumplings or fried potatoes, you can rely on foods that are naturally rich in resistant starch. A hundred grams of legumes contain around 10 grams of it, a potato around 3.2 grams, a hundred grams of rice just under 3.1 grams.

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“A food rich in fiber helps with a calorie-reduced diet,” explained Siegfried Ussar to the Science Media Center (SMC). Ussar is director of the Adipocytes and Metabolism Department at the Helmholtz Center Munich and was not involved in the study himself. He also believes that the participants probably lost weight primarily because their intestinal microbiome had changed. And by eating less fat. The diet during the study period was sufficient to maintain weight, but more balanced than the test subjects had previously practiced.

From Ussar’s point of view, there is nothing to be said against increasing the intake of resistant starch or other fiber. However, he calculates: In order to consume 40 grams of resistant starch just from food, as was the case in the study, you would have to eat significantly more than a kilo of rice or potatoes – even if they came from the previous day. That would generally mean a high number of calories.

To prevent this, you could instead drink the amount as a dietary supplement in the future, for example in shakes, or stir corn starch or potato flour into milk. But there is a downer: biochemist Ussar assumes that the effect will not last long. If you interrupt the RS diet, the microbiome in the intestine quickly switches back to the current menu. “The bacteria that are responsible for the positive metabolic effects,” says Ussar, “will disappear within a few days.” Or at least their number will decrease significantly.

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His colleague Christian Sina, director of the Institute for Nutritional Medicine at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein, was particularly bothered by the small number of study participants and the short duration of the study. No general conclusions could be made in 37 test subjects with more or less moderate overweight who were observed over 20 weeks. He explained to the SMC: “To really convince me, a larger study group including subjects with a body mass index of over 30 years would be desirable.”

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