Safe v. Non-Toxic
I've been listening and reading about the web, and the "buzz" over so-called "safe starches" continues. One of the sentiments that goes with this is the idea that somehow Paul Jaminet is being irresponsible by promoting starch consumption. The rationale is that because some minority of the population is intolerant to certain starchy foods, at best we should be labeling foods like potatoes and white rice "non-toxic" starches. I disagree. Firstly, in their book and on the blog, the Jaminets' reason for designating certain starches as safe couldn't be much more clear. Secondly, I don't like the word toxic associated with a substance found in natural foods that has sustained billions of human lives throughout many millenia.
There are a certain number of people who are wildly allergic to peanuts. Should every book or nutritionist that allows peanuts, or even encourages peanut butter as a good choice for snacks tag them semi-toxic? In my opinion, the fact that there are some folks with celiac does not justify the demonization of wheat consumption for all people. Then we have nightshades. Should we start talking about "non-toxic" fruits and veggies because some seem sensitive to these foods?
The "conventional wisdom" in low carb circles, is that starchy foods are unsafe for anyone with a impaired insulin signalling -- which is pretty much all of us according to a certain preacher -- for all eternity. I, and more importantly the majority of peer review scientific literature, would disagree. Insulin signalling is simply not optimized on a VLC/VHF diet in most people when consuming an energy balanced diet. While the frank diabetic (no matter the type) is hyperglycemic, to equate this automatically with some permanent/innate glucose intolerance is misguided. While temporarily managing hyperglycemia by removing carbs from the diet may work, it is a temporary fix. Just ask Wheat Belly and Fat Head -- one of whom was diabetic and claims a slice of bread now puts his BG in glycating zone, and the other of whom was not (to my knowledge) diabetic, but claims the same now happens to him. And the funny thing is that T2 can be reversed.
There's a second class of people with intestinal issues who avoid all starches. The theory is to starve out the bad gut flora that feed on di- and polysaccharides. This is all fine and well, but despite the numbers of folks suffering from these issues, the rates are rather low. I think folks tend to over-estimate the efficacy rates for these treatments as well. The ketogenic diet does not work for all epileptics, and it can have deleterious consequences. One side effect of keto diets, in a population not normally known to have a high incidence of same, is kidney stones. So should the beloved coconut oil come with a cautionary note? Is it "safe" in high doses?
Bottom line, I'm actually getting a bit jaded on this whole safe starch thing because it implies that others are not safe. While the Jaminets back up their classification with evidence, I'm not seeing where vast swaths of the population, even eating rather SAD-ly, are suffering what anyone would consider toxic effects from gluten, phytates, etc., etc. If some small percentage of humans is sensitive to a food, is that any reason to consider it to be toxic? I say stop this madness already!! Peanuts are deadly toxic to a small number of humans, they are not to the vast, vast majority. Same with wheat/gluten, rice -- even brown rice -- is not toxic to just about everyone. I gag on asparagus. Something about it does not agree with me. Does that make it toxic? I don't think so. Same for some that beloved raw milk so many are fond of. Many will still not be able to tolerate that, so should any diet rec including raw milk or products made from it contain a "non-toxic" dairy label? This is silly, really, the more you think about it. And this is going to sound harsh, but grow up and take some responsibility! If wheat doesn't agree with you, don't eat it!! But don't claim that everyone else shouldn't eat it as well just because you have a problem with it. And I'll thank you for keeping your misunderstanding of human physiology to yourself as well.
When I start hearing of massive numbers of patients going into anaphylactic shock being administered a standard glucose IV, then I'll start to take this garbage of glucose as toxic poison seriously. In other words, never. Of course chronic hyperglycemia is a deleterious state, but when people "worry" over the potential danger of calling a macronutrient type "safe", at this point you've really got to be kidding me. Ninety-nine point 99999 something percent of all humans who have ever lived on this planet have safely consumed starch. Including diabetics. Including insulin resistant folks. And I'm willing to bet the instigator in chief of this debate might just find all of his problems from skin boils, to low testosterone, to possible thyroid imbalance, to abdominal obesity, to dizzy spells, etc. all go away with some starch. Maybe not, but he'll never find out, because for him, that n=1 jokexperiment involved adding sweet potato fries and bread with butter to his already hypercaloric diet for a few days.
Furthermore, if folks think it's irresponsible to call starch safe, then be consistent about responsibility of dietary advice. There are people who react poorly to fats. I get serious cramping and ... um ... let's just say I'm running fast sometimes when I have MCT's sometimes. Does that mean it is irresponsible to promote coconut oil? Heck, that's one type of fat, doesn't that make promoting any fat consumption suspect? Or should we have lists of toxic fats based on well documented sensitivities of certain populations to certain types of fats?
In a recent interview, Dr. Mary Vernon unequivocally stated that everyone should be on a low carb diet. Everyone? Now THAT is irresponsible. Because certainly folks with glycogen storage disorders would not do well with her advice ... they would die. Oh but that's rare. Well, so too are many of the conditions pinned on starches per se. Many diabetics thrive on higher carb lower fat diets. So who is irresponsible? Those who acknowledge this and share the information, or agenda driven folks like Fred Hahn who says that no diabetic would do better eating more carbs?
I would hope that those exposed to the ideas of a Paul Jaminet and others might just open their minds and reconsider some of their dearly held beliefs. Sadly, every time I see a glimmer of hope this might actually happen, the LC wagons -- that everyone is proverbially falling off of and trying to stay on -- get circled. I have enormous respect for Paul and others like him trying to strike that middle ground. But, I fear some of these still fall into the LC trap of defending carb consumption against the presumed detrimental nature of carbs. I think that thanks to the Guyenets and Masterjohns of the blogosphere (and others of course), we have a more thorough knowledge of disease-free traditional societies who consumed far more of their daily intake in the form of carbohydrate than the supposedly lethal SAD. It's time to stop pinning all the ills of the SAD, then, on one macronutrient -- even if one throws in a few references to O6's, transfats, and fill in deficiency du jour here for good measure.
In reading through this I realize it comes off rather snarky, even for me. I can't help it at this point. We don't need to be so revolutionary as to reject all conventional wisdom simply because it is widely accepted. Somebody has done something right in the past 50-60 years ... perhaps? Why do we throw common sense out the window just because someone comes along with an alternative hypothesis. Make them convince you with evidence. Otherwise you're being snookered into answering the "when's the last time you beat your wife" question. Don't be a snookeree. :-)