Resistant Starch & Butyrate: Eades' Shmashthematics

While finally finishing off my last post on short chain "fatty" acids, I was reminded of a whopper of a post on Dr. Eades' blog that I came across a long ago on resistant starch and butyrate.  This post, too, has been in my Drafts for a very long time waiting for some finishing touches.

I came across this whilst I was looking into soluble fiber, low carbing and stalling and discovered that for all intent and purposes, SCFA's are carbohydrates metabolically, not fats at all.  On LC forums I was repeatedly told or reading that soluble fiber is not really a carb because it is converted to a fat therefore doesn't stimulate insulin (I've got a fair amount of info on this to summarize in a future post).  So this was one of the first things I began inquiring after.

I had read several highly informative pieces by Eades through links in discussions, etc.  But when I found and read this one, it perked my "fact check" bunny ears right on up.   He seemed to get so caught up in his smug condescension of the RD in the video (unfortunately no longer available)  that he was discussing, that he put out quite a bit of erroneous information of his own.   Don't get me wrong, the misinformation she was putting out deserved criticism and correction.  But Eades only compounded things with his analysis.
So Eades quotes a list of foods that are suggested to be high in resistant starch content and the RD's contention that you need only about a half cup of these a day to get all the benefits she attributed to the resistant starch. Then he writes this:
One half cup of any of these foods – so she says – contains all the resistant starch one needs to provide all the above benefits. Let’s take a look.
According to the USDA database if we consume a half cup of cooked potato we’ll end up with 12.9 grams of carbohydrate (almost three teaspoons), of which 10.5 grams are starch. If we go by our RD’s estimate that 5 percent of the total starch is resistant starch, we calculate that our half cup of potato contains about half a gram of resistant starch (0.5265 g to be exact). If we then convert this starch to butyrate we find that we have about 2.3 grams of butyrate (assuming 100 percent conversion to butyrate, which isn’t the case because some is converted to other short chain fatty acids).
Ummmmmmm ... we can convert about 0.5g of anything into 2.3g of something else??  Nope.  If we have 100% conversion of r.s. to butyrate, 0.5g r.s. will yield 0.5g butyrate AT MOST.**  

Edited In 2/27/11:  Starch is a polymer of glucose so for any given amount of starch you get however many of the glucose monomers.  The number of molecules is the same, the mass upon cleavage negligible difference.  The fermentation process basically boils down to:

 glucose (C6H12O6) → butyric acid  (C4H8O2) + 2H2 + 2CO2  

FWIW, the bacteria gets 3ATP from this for its energy needs.  The gases, well ... give us gas!  If we have one mole (a chemistry unit for the number of molecules, 6.02 x 1023 to be more exact) of glucose, it weighs approximately 180 g.  From each mole of glucose, we produce one mole (or the same number of molecules) of butyric acid.  One mole of butyric acid weighs approximately 88 g, or roughly half the mass of the glucose.  So, mass-wise, 0.5g starch will yield at most 0.275 g butyrate assuming 100% conversion.     /Edit
... even if butyrate really does all it is cracked up to do, we wouldn’t really need the potato with all its accessory easily absorbed carb because we can get the equivalent amount of butyrate from a single pat of butter. (Or almost the same – a pat of butter contains 1.45 g butyrate. Two pats of butter contain 3 g or about 1.5 times the amount generated by the resistant starch component of the potato.)
Nutrition data for butter indicates that of 100g butter,  contains just ~1.8g butyrate, but one oz (weight) with 15.4g total fat contains ~0.5g butyrate.  The latter reporting seems erroneous (1 oz by weight butter would be 2T), but for the sake of argument let's use approximately 3% butyrate for butter.  A "pat" of butter is approximately 1 teaspoon and contains approximately 4g fat.  So, a pat of butter contains a little more than a tenth of a gram of butyrate.  I'll generously allot 0.15g butyrate/pat butter.    Seems we have an order of magnitude error here.  To get the half gram of butyrate from a half cup of potatoes one would need to - and this is a low ball - eat almost 1.2 tablespoons of butter!  

If the benefits of the resistant starch come from its conversion to butyrate as our RD avers, and if it requires the amount per day found in only one half cup of potato (or of the other foods she lists) as she also avers, then why not provide ourselves with one and a half times as much by eating a couple of pats of butter per day, which come without the extra three teaspoons of sugar? We get the butyrate without having to convert and we don’t get the extra carbs. Makes perfect sense to me.

I think comparing these two sources of butyrate also deserves some scrutiny.  Butyrate is a small water soluble compound.  Delivered orally in butter, one wonders how much actually reaches the colon (large intestine) vs. the butyrate generated by bacterial fermentation of fibers "on location".  Think what you will of the pharmaceutical industry, you can learn a lot from delivery methods employed.  Indeed sodium butyrate  is used in the treatment of Crohn's disease, and supplements are coated to ensure release in the ileo-caecal region and colon.  This would lead me to believe that the majority of butyrate in butter is absorbed well before it gets to the end of the small intestine and large intestine in the fully developed digestive system.  May well be why it's found only in the infant food of mammals that have yet to establish bacterial populations in their guts.  It seems to me that soluble fibers are a much better source of butyrate than butter.  We get more from high fiber sources, delivered directly at the point of use/need with fewer calories and a larger bulk of food.  I would suggest inulin is a better source of butyrate than resistant starch simply because foods high in inulin tend to not be overly high in digestible starch.  

Eades made one last error:  
While I’m at it, I have to mention one other little porky she tells during the interview. Says she
…and because resistant starch doesn’t get digested or absorbed it fills you up but you don’t get any calories from it.
Okay. Let me get this straight. First, she tells us that it converts to butyrate, a fat, which is absorbed and works miracles once it is absorbed. Second, she tells us that we don’t get any calories from it. Have I got that right?
She is correct in saying that resistant starch (as well as any other type of fiber) gets converted to short-chain fatty acids. And she is correct in saying that the short-chain fatty acids get absorbed. But when they do get absorbed, they contain 9 kcal per gram, just the same as any other fat. So they are not free of calories. That’s why fiber is counted in the total calorie count on nutritional labels. Fiber does make it’s way through the upper digestive tract without being absorbed, but it does get converted to fat and absorbed in the lower GI tract, i.e., the colon. So, I guess we could say she’s a fibber when it comes to fiber. At least in terms of its calorie content.
Ummm...  MCT's contain fewer calories per gram than LCT's.  SCFA's will contain even less.  By Eades' math, about 0.5g carb = 2 calories is magically converted to 2.3g fat = 20.7 calories.    Bacteria can magically increase nutritional content of something 10-fold, all the while using some of the original energy content to sustain their own lives?   (And we're to take seriously anything he says on the topic of thermodynamics with this type of sloppy analysis?)  I don't know that one would call this a porkie from Eades, but it's utterly abominable!

Butyrate likely contains <4 cal/gram as it only contains 4 carbon atoms as compared to 6 for glucose.  I can't find the chemical reactions of butyrate for energy and I keep finding lots of uncertainty in the literature discussions on this metabolic pathway.  But I'll go out on a limb here and say that no way it's 9 cal/g!!

According to Wikipedia "Regardless of the type of fiber, the body absorbs fewer than 4 Calories (16.7 kilojoules) per gram of fiber, which can create inconsistencies for actual product nutrition labels. In some countries, fiber is not listed on nutrition labels, and is considered 0 Calories/gram when the food's total Calories are computed. In other countries all fiber must be listed, and is considered 4 Calories/gram when the food's total Calories are computed (because chemically fiber is a type of carbohydrate and other carbohydrates contribute 4 Calories per gram). In the US, soluble fiber must be counted as 4 Calories per gram, but insoluble fiber may be (and usually is) treated as 0 Calories per gram and not mentioned on the label."  

If it is the case that fiber calories are counted 4 cal/g, then you can legitimately subtract 2 cal/g from the calorie count of the food.  

** An exception to this would be a chemical reaction A + B → C or C + D. If we're just looking at the masses of A and C, then if all or part of the B molecule is tacked onto A, then yes, the mass of product C will be greater than that of reactant A. However, the mass of A+B must equal the mass of C or C+D. This isn't the case here anyway so this is a moot point.

† Adjusted for ~10 % mass increase adding water to hydrolyze the starch polymer to glucose


Flavia said…
I'd like to pick your brain regarding this post:

What do you think about the claim that blood sugars over a certain setpoint (160) ages you? I am scared sh*tless about this. Is this true? So eating moderate carbs (say 100 a day) is very bad for us (looks wise)?
Matt Stone said…
I suspected too that very little butter-butyric acid actually makes it to the gut, and was kinda peaved when this title was given to my article - which was not the point of the article at all...
Christian said…
The only thing I can find is that Dr. Eades got the absolute content of butyrate in butter wrong. And as far as I can tell someone already pointed that out to him in the comment section of his post.

"If we have 100% conversion of r.s. to butyrate, 0.5g r.s. will yield 0.5g butyrate AT MOST."

I am not sure I can follow. What is the structural formula of resistant starch and how is it converted to butyrate? That should determine if the weight of one reagent in this reaction is more or less than the weight of the product, no?

And where do you see Eades doing math that 2 calories is converted to 20.7 calories? He points out that the RD makes a simple mistake by not taking into conseration -any- calories from the r.s. which is bogus of course.
CarbSane said…
@Flavia: First, I would like to know where Dr. D gets his BG "facts" from. A normal person doesn't see BG's of 150-200 from a bowl of oatmeal as he's claimed many many times.

Glycation progresses from CHRONIC hyperglycemia, not the occasional glycemic excursion. Oatmeal and apples ain't going to give you wrinkles!
Flavia said…
:::dives head first into jar of Nutella:::
Nigel Kinbrum said…
Dr. D is diabetic, so I suspect that he's using his own readings.
Anonymous said…
i agree with you about the takes a lot of food i know doesnt agree with me for me to get my BS to actually SPIKE in a meaningful manner Dr D would consider dangerous. it is really, REALLY peculiar some of the food that spikes BS and some that is benign. for one, pork doesnt raise my BS, but beef does as well as tuna and chicken is just a mess. a large load of soluble fiber in a sitting send my BS up but a meal with starchy roots leaves my BS normal.

and resistant starch, i dont know much about it but for digestion i can eat LOADS more yams when they are cold as opposed to hot...actually that goes for most food in general
CarbSane said…
Yeah, Mal, so true, and even if it does spike, it's back down in a matter of an hour in most people. I imagine I had a pretty messed up metabolism for a goodly number of years so this not-even-normal person doesn't see such a spike. A person habitually eating a very low carb high fat diet, however, will not react appropriately to a carb challenge. I'm convinced that once one is in a normal weight range (for them, that may be super lean for some) most could incorporate carbs and maintain glycemic control provided they hadn't irreversibly damaged their pancreas.

I find the 87% reversal of diabetes within days for morbidly obese following gastric bypass an encouraging statistic in this regard. This tells me that T2 can be reversed for very many!
CarbSane said…
@Christian: I'm going to edit in something on the .5g -> 2.3g math. Eades probably did some sort of stoichiometric calculation there using approximately a 2:9 molar ratio of starch to butyrate. Not sure where he got that from, but it is irrelevant. When we break down a polymer (which is what starch is) we cannot create more mass of monomers than the mass of the polymer. When we further cleave decompose the 6C monomers in a reaction that produces CO2 and H2, the mass of the resulting butyrate will be less than the original starch. It cannot be more.
CarbSane said…
Also, where I got the 2cal -> 20cal calculation was following Eades' math. The 0.5g starch * 4cal/g = 2 cal starch. HE claimed 0.5g carb converted to 2.3g fat. The 2.3g fat x 9 cal/g per his claim = 20.7 calories.
Christian said…
"It cannot be more."

I am deeply confused. My chemistry background sucks, but I remember doing something like this:

r.s. + other reagents -> butyrate + other products

Don't you then have to know exactly what is involved in this reaction to make any statement about the masses? Eades may of course be wrong with his calculation because we don't know how he got there.
Your handwaving argument seems to go like "r.s. -> butyrate + CO2 + H2" but is that really so? I am just curious.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
When you hydrolyse a polymer, that adds ~10% mass.
1mole of glucose = 180g.
1mole of water = 18g.
CarbSane said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christian said…
"then yes, the mass of product C will be greater than that of reactant A. "

now I can sleep well again.
CarbSane said…
@Nige: Forgot to account for this, it's in my edit. Actually it's about 5% right? One H2O per 2 glucose.

@Christian: I've edited in the chemistry involved. It is so. I'm not hand-waving here. Eades seems to have gotten his analysis from, not from any sort of legit biochemistry source. One need only look at the formulas for
Christian said…
So comparing the < 0.265g butyrate from the resistant starch with the 0.3g butyrate you get from two pats of butter, then the funny thing is, after all these corrections the original argument that Dr. Eades was making becomes valid again. ;)

"It is so. I'm not hand-waving here."

Well the thing is that your calculations start with glucose and not r.s. - so what is the difference between r.s. and starch on a molecular level? I mean if I ingest pure glucose it doesn't get converted to butyrate does it? I believe you when you say "The fermentation process basically boils down to:" but this is everything but obvious - at least for me.
CarbSane said…
Christian: The bottom line is that anyone of Eades' status, if you will, especially in the context of his rather condescending disassembly of the RD's misinformation, should never have written what he did. Why? Because he should know that one of the reason fibery foods cause flatulence is because CO2 is a product of the breakdown. Knowing nothing else, this means the mass of butyrate could never be more than the mass of the glucose polymer. It's not rocket science to see that going from glucose to butyrate would involve the loss of two carbon atoms. In glucose you have a 1:1 C:O ratio, in butyrate, you have a 2:1 ratio, and O has a mass of 16g/mol to C's 12g/mol. Anyway you look at it, his 0.5g RS -> 2.3g butyrate is rather inexcusable. His assertion that you get 9 cal/g of any "fat" is equally absurd.

The only one of the three errors that is excusable is the butyrate content of butter. That could have been a transcription or skimming error. The other two demonstrate a lack of due diligence. If you're going to do some sort of math, do it right. Don't pull numbers out of thin air.

Eades' claim is that 2 cal of resistant starch could yield almost 21 cals of butyrate. Uh huh!!
CarbSane said…
Eades' point is still questionable even if you fix all the math. Butyrate delivery to the colon is the main focus. No oral glucose or most starches don't make it to the colon to feed the bacteria, it's the non-digestible fibers like RS that do. In any case, just my initial inquiry into whether oral butyrate makes it to the colon seems to indicate this is doubtful. So chances are you could feasibly consume a pound of butter a day and not deliver the butyrate from a gram or so resistant starch to the colon.

Butyrate's metabolic role is not solely in the colon, but its action in the colon is clearly of major importance. It can't do its thing if it doesn't get there.
CarbSane said…
@Nige: Actually I guess it's closer to 10% with long polymers. Looking at the structure, one H2O to link 2 glucose monomers, but all but the terminal glucose lose an H2O. I think this is the final edit folks ;-)
stan said…
I thought calories were absorbed in the small intestine. Therefore, regardless of fermentation, neither soluble or insoluble fiber can be absorbed as calories. Short-chain fatty acids derived from soluble fiber have many physiological benefits, but this is the first time I've heard of fiber being metabolized as 9 calories per gram. I guess someone like Eades can just make up his own facts about the human body. The fermentation occurs beyond where the human body extracts energy from food.
CarbSane said…
There is a lot of evidence of butyrate and other SCA's being absorbed in the colon (and since bacteria are present in the end of the small intestine/cecum, absorbed there too. Even hindgut fermenters often resort to eating their feces to gain access to nutrients created in their cecum/colon because not all is absorbed. Seems in humans most of the energy is used "on site" by the colon cells themselves.
Sanjeev said…
Flavia said...
What do you think about the claim that blood sugars over a certain setpoint (160) ages you?
You can make a similar list of bad effects re: oxygen.
and water
Hydrogen Peroxide

etc ...

Yeah, glucose is a reactive chemical. Why does the
good Doc not list the benefits? There are hundreds, maybe thousands.

Your body uses it, makes it, can't live without it. Can't live with it (OMG !!! Glucose is FEMALE !!!!!!! ; ) )

Do you know, for example, that some of the mechanisms that repair your DNA also DAMAGE it? Can't wait for someone to recommend you stop your DNA repair mechanisms because they are mutagenic & carcinogenic.
CarbSane said…
Interesting comment there Sanjeev. I'm reminded of Lustig's treatment of fructose as poison because it is only metabolized by the liver.

I'm certainly coming across a ton of literature lately demonstrating both good and bad impacts of omega 3 fats too.

IMO blaming carbs/glucose for all evils is misguided.
CarbSane said…
@Nige re: oatmeal and Dr.D, he claims that's the "normal" BG response, not his. He's made claims of up to 200 post bowl of oatmeal as being "normal" before.
Nigel Kinbrum said…
In Flavia's link, Dr. D wrote...(emphasis mine)
"What happens when blood glucose hits 160 mg/dl?

A blood glucose at this level is typical after, say, a bowl of slow-cooked oatmeal with no added sugar, a small serving of Cheerios, or even an apple in the ultra carb-sensitive. Normal blood sugar with an empty stomach, i.e., fasting; high blood sugars after eating."
CarbSane said…
Having seen him say similar in the past, I took that as "even an apple in the ultra carb sensitive" -- IOW the oatmeal or Cheerios would be typically cause that level.

If it were just this post I would think one thing. But he's claimed that *normal* BG responses to certain foods are WAAAAAAAAAAAAY higher.
randyfeingersh said…
This paper makes a case for a size amount of butric acid via fermation of RS and Fiber (mostly RS). Up to 20% of energy. Resistance Starch probably make a bigger contribution than fiber.

NI McNeil, MD, MRCPvv
ABSTRACT Herbivores obtain a considerable proportion of energy
requirements from
carbohydrate by the chain of anaerobic carbohydrate fermentation
producing short-chain fatty
acids that are absorbed then metabolized. The evidence for this
sequence occurring in the large
intestine of man is reviewed and estimated to produce 5 to 10% of
human energy requirements.
Further small amounts of energy may come from large intestinal
absorption of fat and the
bacterial breakdown products ofprotein. Am J Clin Nuir
KEY WORDS Intestinal absorption, short-chain fatty acids, dietary
CarbSane said…
Interesting Randy! I'm surprised at how much glucose makes it to the large intestine (60g?). I would think it could be absorbed but apparently it needs to be a smaller molecule like butyrate.

CarbSane said…
FWIW folks, I've checked and one can purchase resistant starch.