SuperStar(ch) -- Or does something stink here?

image link
UPDATE 8//23/2021

The company class action law suit regarding scientific claims made about this product.

I wonder if Peter Attia will get any payout?  LOL

ORIGINAL CONTENT published 11/19/2012   

How on earth did SuperStarch fly under my radar?   Thanks to Lerner, I was made aware of the connection between Jeff Volek -- of nutty ketosis and Atkins Nutritionals fame -- and the UCAN Company marketing a new type of sports drink containing SuperStarch (TM and all that near as I can tell, though the term is not unique to the company).    When I think of SuperStarch, the image of Molly Shannon's Mary Katherine Gallagher character from SNL just popped into my mind complete with her "superstar" exclamation.  Suparstarch(aching?)  Methinks so!

The bottom line of what I'll abbreviate as SS, is that it is supposedly better for performance -- presumably specifically in endurance activities -- because it effectively provides a slow release glucose source that is low GI (doesn't spike glucose much), doesn't elicit a significant insulin response, and therefore doesn't suppress fat burning.  Some of which may be true, and some of which is not supported by the evidence provided by the company.  

I'm not in the fitness business, so I'll leave the performance claims to anyone in the audience that chooses to weigh in that to tackle.  I imagine if one is burning fat -- as we all do, especially in endurance activities -- and douses their system with a high GI sugar shock, this may well have some adverse effects.  Nobody disputes that one of the functions of insulin is to signal (glucose) fuel availability thus a lesser need for fatty acids, therefore suppressing FA release from adipose tissues.  Insulin also tamps down lipid oxidation so that glucose can be preferentially "burnt off".  I imagine this can impact how the athlete feels and impact performance, etc.  I also imagine this SS glucose source might well be useful to some if not many undertaking certain competitive endurance activities.

But I'm always curious about these sorts of things, especially if something sounds a bit off.  For the most part, we are almost always burning some fat and some carb ... just more of one than the other depending largely on the availability of carbohydrate (and differently depending on the tissue/organ).  This SS purports to be a slow-release form of glucose if you will -- it is implied it delivers the same load, but in drip-drip fashion that has none of the impacts of dietary carbohydrate ingestion.   This is essentially a glycemic index argument, the same 50g carb delivered in form A vs. form B, consumed with or without protein and/or fat in a mixed food, is absorbed and impacts glucose levels differently.  The GI nay sayers will say it's a load of bunk, and it's just divvying up the poison load over a longer time frame but the glycemic load, GL, is the same.  Sugar is sugar, as Cate Shanahan likes to remind us, so just say no to your addiction!  

So what is this SS?  On the website we learn:
Generation UCAN is powered by SuperStarch, a healthy, natural, gluten-free innovation in carbohydrate nutrition. SuperStarch is a complex carbohydrate (derived from a unique, non-GMO grain) that stabilizes blood sugar and causes virtually no reaction from the fat-storing hormone insulin. It's backed by proven science. Finally there's a healthier, more efficient energy source than sugars, caffeine, or high-carb meals. Originally discovered for a child, SuperStarch is a revolutionary fuel being used for ENERGY, SPORTS, and FITNESS.
From the FAQ,we learn this "unique grain" is ... drum roll please ... corn!  More specifically:
SuperStarch is just ground up corn (non-GMO) that is cooked with a unique patent pending natural process.
Ummm ... does that make sense?  I'd say not, because I'm not aware that there are any processes that can be classified as natural cooking methods that can be patented at this point.  Sounds more like a chemically produced starch molecule, not unlike other chemically produced substances derived from corn not the least of which being the evil maltodextrin and high fructose corn syrup!!  

I love how they work the "so safe it was developed for a child" angle too.  I note also that the word "natural" used a few times.  Now armed with this information I would presume that they are using heat in some form to transform and/or isolate some "resistant starch" that may indeed be digested, albeit more slowly.  A Google Scholar search on "super starch" turns up many hits linking a superstarch called amylopectin A with obesity!  Not sure if this SS is the same as amylopectin A, but it is interesting that a superstarch that would elicit a muted insulin response might be fattening!?!

In any case, a little more detail is available in this Volek authored primer on SS.
SuperStarch was originally designed by Scottish researchers in the treatment of a rare genetic disorder called glycogen storage disease, which is characterized by an impaired ability to convert glycogen to glucose in the liver. ... Two peer-reviewed scientific studies have confirmed that ingestion of a novel heat-moisture processed cornstarch is superior to conventional treatments in preventing hypoglycemia over extended periods of time in subjects with Glycogen Storage Disease(4, 5). The patent pending proprietary method for making the starch involves a hydrothermal (heat-moisture) treatment process to the native starch which significantly alters the metabolism of the carbohydrate in the body. ...
SuperStarch is not a sugar or fiber. Chemically it is a complex carbohydrate or starch that is completely absorbed. SuperStarch is an extremely large glucose polymer with a molecular weight between 500,000 and 700,000 g/mol. ... In the intestines, SuperStarch is semi-resistant to digestion, but is eventually completely absorbed into the bloodstream, thereby giving it a slow time-released absorption profile. Because of the low glycemic impact, there is also little stimulation of the hormone insulin following ingestion.
It's odd that no patented process shows up on Google Scholar (help me out here if I'm missing something), but it sure sounds to me like it is produced by some process involving moist heat.  If so, it's about as natural as maltodextrin.   Maltodextrin is often touted as natural because it can be derived from corn and other starches through enzymatic and other processes not involving synthetic "unnatural"chemicals.  I'll leave it to you to decide if it is then worthy of the term natural.  The other option is that this process is merely isolating existing high molecular weight starches already present in corn.  In which case it's already a load of bunk that SS comes from some "unique grain", but they've compounded the bunkitude by presenting SS as any sort of innovative, unique or any manner other "wow-factor" adjective carbohydrate.  I'm thinking it may well be mostly the latter with a bit of the former for reasons I'll get to in a bit.  If, indeed, it is simply isolated, then it is natural indeed, but the other adjectives like "healthy" are not necessarily implied.  After all, good old table sugar, sucrose, is natural ...  In any case, it is listed as "modified corn starch" on the "food" label.

Can we get to the science please?  Certainly!

Again, it is interesting what is and is not presented on the main website pages vs. the more detailed paper.   On the "proof" page (edit 8/23/21 to Web Archive saved page), we have some data from an independent study UCAN commissioned out to University of Oklahoma. They chose to report just the insulin findings on the website, without information as to the dose of the carbohydrate.  From the additional materials we learn this is for 10 highly trained male cyclists (avg. 30 y.o.) after consuming 1g/kg = 79g carb on average.  Although they collected lots of information, not so much is reported, including the glucose levels that were merely described as being more steady and avoiding a spike.

Fair enough. But here's the graphic for the glucose response from an internally conducted study involving four subjects consuming a sports drink contained 5g fructose and other additives with either 28g maltodextrin or 25g SS (why not totally equal, but it's likely inconsequential). 

I've altered the original curves to assess the glucose exposure -- or area under the curve, AUC.

For the maltodextrin (blue curve, approximated gray triangle), the AUC = 0.5(base)(height) = 0.5(67)(1.25)  = approximately 42 mg/dL*hr, while for the SS (red curve, approximated yellow triangle), the AUC = 0.5(20)(1.75) = 17.5 mg/dL*hr.  Huh??  The subjects were given (nominally) more SS, yet their blood glucose exposure is less than half that of maltodextrin.  Yep ... something is stinking a bit here!  UCAN claims that SS is completely absorbed (something they could probably verify with a relatively simple experiment using radiolabels), yet the GL says otherwise.  Somewhere along the line either it isn't all absorbed, or what is absorbed is not all metabolized.  Where's the missing glucose otherwise??  In any case, both the lower postprandial glucose levels and muted insulin response indicate the body is probably utilizing this carbohydrate at about a 50% rate.

But the next stuff is the familiar "fat burning" smoke and mirrors we've come to expect from the perpetually disingenuous low carb community.  The equating of lipolysis (breakdown and release) with oxidation (actual fat "burning") is so prevalent and so easily distinguished and discussed, that the continual conflation of the two is simply downright dishonest.  They're LYING to you.  In that OK study, for all it's rigor, double-blindedness, placebo control and all that jazz, here's what you're told to impress you:

Before and after exercise, participants ingested 1g/kg (average 79 g) of either SuperStarch or Maltodextrin while providing blood and expired gas samples every 15 and 30 min, respectively, before, during, and following exercise. The major outcome variables were glucose, insulin, fatty acids, glycerol, and fat oxidation during and after exercise. ... 
Ingested before exercise, SuperStarch:
  • Blunted initial spike in blood glucose and insulin
  • Enhanced breakdown of fat during exercise
  • Enhanced fat oxidation (carbohydrate sparing) during exercise
Ingested after exercise, SuperStarch:
  • Blunted glucose and insulin spike
  • Enhanced breakdown and use of fat during recovery

But here's what they actually divulge,  in Volek's white paper, and the diagram from the website.

SuperStarch was associated with greater fat breakdown [lipolysis] during exercise and recovery as indicated by significantly increased serum non-esterified fatty acids and glycerol levels. There was also a trend for lower respiratory exchange ratios during in the SuperStarch trial compared to Maltodextrin indicating [a trend towards but not statistically significant] increased oxidation of fat.  
The diagram at right is for NEFA levels in the serum, in other words, due to lack of insulin response, fatty acids are released (inappropriately?) from adipose tissue.   But as I've pointed out many times here before, lipolysis is NOT fat burning.  See, for example: The Myth of Starving Cells II ~ Lipolysis is not rate limiting.  They don't show the "trending data", most likely because there's no difference.  They have the data! The respiratory quotients were measured, the lower ratio would indicate a bit more fat burning, but likely because they didn't consume quite as much glucose than they thought.   You are not burning more fat, unless you're actually burning more fat.  All excessive fat breakdown accomplishes is higher NEFA levels in the blood and delivery to your muscles.  This might be a good thing, but it can also -- as we know in diabetes -- be detrimental.

And then I couldn't help but notice the really important information that's not on the "mass media" side of the website.  You recall, the part that talks of the "unique grain" from which this mysterious SS is obtained through a proprietary "natural" process.  You recall, the part that talks about how it's so healthy it was developed for a child!  Yeah, that part.  With all it's promises about performance, and whatnot.  If this were Monsanto, or Body by Vi trying to sell you something like this, the ever skeptical, knowledgeable and astute low carbers would be all over this scam!   Because it gets worse folks.   This stuff is listed on the ingredients as "modified corn starch", and in the white paper, there was an internal study done comparing SS to good old fashioned, run-of-the-mill, unmodified corn starch, in the form of the brand Argo.    Here's that study:

In order to determine the glycemic impact of SuperStarch, 16 subjects completed 3 trials in a random order. The trials involved consuming 75 g of carbohydrate in the form of SuperStarch, Argo starch, or glucose followed by serial blood glucose measurements for 7 hours.  All testing occurred after an overnight fast and a standardized diet the day before.  
Comparing just SS to Argo:

  • Compared to consumption of Argo, SuperStarch decreased the acute glycemic impact by 13%.
  • Glucose levels were maintained closer to baseline 7 hours after ingestion of SuperStarch (-4% from fasting) compared to Argo (-13%).  
The doses are different, but let's try to put some numbers in context with the Maltodextrin.  Recall that glucose levels rose roughly 20 points from ~100 -- or increased 20% at peak for SS, vs. about 65 points for MD or 65%.  Thus the glycemic impact measured by peak response was decreased by ~70% for SS vs. MD, and using my approximate AUC's the load impact was roughly 50% or decreased by 50%, same difference.  What those "salient points" above translate to, for an average 79g dose (just a bit more than a standard OGTT), is that for a glucose exposure of 100 mg/dL*hr for Argo, the exposure for SS was a "mere" 87 mg/dL*hr.    Furthermore, if the starting glucose level was 100 mg/dL, then the rebound "hypo" at 7 hours was 96 mg/dL for SS vs. 87 mg/dL for Argo.  

I don't know about you, but these are not that impressive to me.  The comparisons to maltodextrin are a bit more impressive, and compared to glucose (with decreased glycemic impact of 57%), sure.  Actually what is curiously impressive, is the performance of corn starch.  Corn is considered to be medium to low GI.  Considering that these glucose gels endurance athletes use come in roughly 25g/100 cal doses, and they aren't waiting 7 hours between doses, I would be rather surprised to see any significant differences if one tweaked the doses/timing of the two.  

But I guess this guy thinks it is worth experimenting with.
I consume more overall carbohydrates, though still virtually zero sugar or refined carbohydrates. Most of this additional carbohydrate is in the form of nuts and SuperStarch.
Newsflash, SuperStarch IS refined carbohydrate, make no mistake about it.  This SuperStarch thing sure is a tangled web.  Peter Attia, aka Boy Wonder Glucagon around these parts, a relic from his days of his War on Insulin, has been using it for a couple of years now.  Gee, that's an interesting revelation.  Dr. Uber Nutty Ketotic himself, Dr. half kilo of fat a day, has been using SS! OH THE CARBS!!!!!!!   Next thing you know, the other boy wonder Gatewing will be fighting the good fight with SuperStarch pool noodles.  Can the LLVLC sponsorship be far behind?   Here's the gang -- it's been a while since they've made appearances here!

In Part II Attia interviews a sports trainer he introduced to SS:
I was introduced to Generation UCAN by you, (Peter Attia). I had actually never heard of it prior to you giving me some to try on my own last year. At the time I was struggling in my own personal training after making the switch to a higher fat, low carb, no sugar lifestyle and it made a big difference for me personally.
SAY WHAT???   Yet another person who has struggled going high fat low carb.  Remind me again please, why do these folks make this nutritional switch again?

Here's the real bottom line folks.  This is UCAN. 

(image stolen from Attia)

No, it is not paleo, primal (I'll save Mark Sisson the post on that), real food, whole food, low carb, whatever.   At $2.75/serving (SS only) or $3.75/serving (with protein) -- a roughly 30g = 120 calorie serving is some pretty pricey glucose!!  Let's compare with Argo corn starch.  A one pound box goes for under $2 (under $1 if you're lucky or buy in bulk or buy generic) and would contain 13 or so  servings of 30g each.  We're talking 20 cents here if you're anywhere near thrifty, less if you're moreso, and you can pick some up at just about any store.

Why does anyone need SuperStarch?  Eat a freakin corn on the cob every now and then.  Most of your ancestors did for thousands of years.

More importantly, if it's all about the insulin, why did not Atkins Nutritionals, benefactor of LC research, jump on this goldmine?  Well, it's not a fiber so they can't play smoke and mirror LIES games like Vole & company played in The New Atkins with sugar alcohols.  They can't play the same games with glycerin, aka glycerol, trying to get it classed as a fiber so they could subtract the carbs and get an acceptable net to put on the label.  Nope, there would be carbs and carbs galore.

But Peter Attia has been eating the stuff.  How many more low carbers have too?  And how many still believe insulin is the bad guy in all of this??


Sanjeev said…
> because it effectively provides a slow release glucose


> source that is low GI (doesn't spike glucose much)


> doesn't elicit a significant insulin response,


> and therefore doesn't suppress fat burning.

this is a lie to sell more ... it's fructose
Sanjeev said…
> originally designed by Scottish researchers in the treatment of a rare genetic disorder

Scottish? Rare genetic disorder?
Must be something to do with bagpipes, kilts and haggis.
Sanjeev said…
There's this stuff called Vitargo that has randomized controlled trials showing improved performance in limited situations behind it.

It provides glucose faster than plain glucose and even faster than maltodextrin. The claim is because its polymeric length is longer than maltodextrin it does not form as many aqueous ions (it has low osmolality) so it empties from the stomach faster and is absorbed faster intestinally.

Until they this new stuff gets some randomized trials behind it measuring actual performance it's vapour-carb.
Nice one Lerner, well spotted. This UCAN stuff does seem terribly expensive, no doubt even more so at UK prices - always hiked up compared to US equivalent. SuperStarch does sound like it should be one of Evelyn's cartoon characters.
Sanjeev said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sanjeev said…

"The reason I had so much difficulty getting into ketosis was because of my caloric requirement. 3-4 hours per day of training created quite a caloric requirement and along with this I was over-consuming protein. The gluconeogensis of which, was probably increasing hepatic glucose output too much to allow de novo synthesis of B-OHB."

is there any indication how much Attia takes?

this really raises doubts about a lot of the recent ketosis claims ... how are they (Attia especially) measuring ketosis

and how are they staying in ketosis while consuming this stuff, especially after claiming that glucose from protein metabolism was tossing him out of ketosis?
Lerner said…
Thank you, sir.

As far as the ingredient, I'd suppose that it's Hydroxypropyl-Distarch Phosphate (aka HDP) from waxy maize (corn)... which I'd posted about here at least once before.

Here's background:

Here's a (Brazilian) page that lists studies on it, including one by pitchman Volek:
(near the bottom)
Roberts MD, Lockwood C, Dalbo VJ, Volek J, Kerksick CM. Ingestion of a highmolecular-weight hydrothermally modified waxy maize starch alters metabolic responses to prolonged exercise in trained cyclists. Nutrition. 2011 Jun

Here's when it was rising in popularity early this year:

But I think it's out of fashion already, being a dud for the price and performance. Note the comments from this week at the bottom, including "...just stick with actual carbs".

Btw, as we know "patent pending" just means that a preliminary application was filled out and submitted with a small fee. Then the work of composing the real application might begin. If more than one entity is competing to register a patent, then the one with the earliest initial application date (not the earliest final application date) wins. Generally, the very expensive second stage might not even be undertaken unless the initial sales are promising.
Lerner said…
...and it should be mentioned that this talk of corn (once the most reviled of all grains until wheat took its place in the modern, groovy food-Puritanism) leads back to the non-bonking Taramuhara --- whose staple was maize, IIRC, and who were at the center of adoration by vegan marathoners decades ago.

But I don't know what Kenyans ate, as in Olympian Kip Keino.

Puddleg said…
Next danger of nutty-K diets - Pellagra from over-reliance on corn.

I gotta admit this one kind of threw me when I saw in on Peter Attia's blog.
Corn is corn and this stuff is as natural as HFCS.
I'm sure it works, Attia and Volek should know, but the words "cognitive dissonance" do resonate.

That the first thing VLC advocates develop for sale is a pure, refined carbohydrate; I don't know what's funnier; the irony, or their inability to sense it.

I admire these guys a great deal and this kind of money-making project is very much the American Way, but still, it's kind of lamentable.
But then, I myself haven't yet figured out how to make a living out of this, so I may eat my words yet.
blogblog said…
Supersatrch is nothing but modified waxy maize starch. This is a very common food thickener also known as Additive 1442. It costs a mere 50 cents per kilo in bulk.
blogblog said…
I though he Taarmahura got their energy from home made booze. They apparently drink like fish.
Unknown said…
I'm torn between SuperStarch and SuperDuperStarch, the latter is a few cents more per serving do to the addition of Duper.
CarbSane said…
LOL ... This really takes the cake,eh? Can't make too much glucose from protein, that is bad. They would be out of ketosis with this stuff for sure.
g2sb said…
SS is processed a corn starch from waxy maize, and an engineered food if ever there was one. This could be of concern to many who view the engineering of foodstuffs as intrinsically scary, and the UCAN marketing materials are, in attempting to appeal to that contingent, only a bit less sleazy than your typical infomercial.

Yet in a broader context, SS is a novel and interesting product, and both Attia and Volek are bright, well meaning guys who are pursuing useful lines of research. So it is fine to note the dissonance in the UCAN marketing, but let's also acknowledge the laudable efforts of both.

Peter's thinking, for example, continues to evolve. (In response to a useful comment from Stephan Guyenet that might be indicative of some co-evolution in curiosity):

" Peter Attia October 31, 2012

Great point, Stephan, and certainly worthy of more study. Unfortunately, there are so many unresolved questions at this point. But it will be very important to have this addressed. I think I might even take your point one step further: the change in composition of the product (and especially if combined with a dietary change that removes sugars and simple/refined carbs) may actually alter several aspects of gut flora that changes both permeability and conversions within the body. I know many folks are actively looking into this broader point, and I’m eagerly awaiting the answers."

Soon, even Evelyn's gut bugs may despair in fear.

MM said…
"I note also that the word 'natural' used a few times."

The FDA hasn't really bothered to define the term "natural."
"From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is 'natural' because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances."

So, there you go. No artifical colors or flavors and voila - Natural!
CarbSane said…
I'm curious, do you give Dr. Oz the same pass? I'm sure he's saved many lives and helped many people in his career. I'm sure he's well meaning. I have yet to see anyone on an LC-friendly blog or in comments preface calling him out for perceived malfeasance (he's been flat out called a murderer on Taubes blog comments), with the usual pap about all the good he does. It's just nonsense. He deserves to be called out for advocating HCG, and these clowns deserve to be called out for this.

I'm also laughing at any serious desire to get to the bottom of things. Gut flora notwithstanding, Attia is behind NuSI which is cloaking advocacy for Taubes hypothesis under the guise of funding "real science". If we can't trust these guys for the straight dope the first time an opportunity to make a buck comes along ...

Here's a study for NuSI that would solve the obesity dilemma. (1) Validate the "pharmacokinetics" of SS so we know a) its absorption, b) its metabolism -- both completeness, byproducts, excretion, etc. Then (2) compare two diets with the same lipid and protein content with one getting 65% calories from SS muffins, the other from regular muffins. Heck, make it interesting and let's go hypercaloric on the two diets just for fun.

If all you need to do is keep the insulin low, the SS folks will remain effortlessly slim, hunger free and buying up enough UCAN bread products for everyone involved to retire. It's a win for everyone right?

Chop, chop. Let's get on this!!

The reality is, they are all adamant proponents of LC and responsible for myth after myth about how LC works when it does. So now when they deceptively market carbs for sports performance under the guise of TWICHOO while advocating nutty ketosis that has intelligent, well-educated men like Peter Attia consuming a half kilo of fat per day lest he consume too much protein to prevent ketosis ... shhhhhhhhhhhhh?? Think of all the good these guys do, and if they haven't, at least they mean well. Feh.
CarbSane said…
Hey Lerner, It's been a frenzied couple of weeks and sometimes when I read comments too fast, I miss stuff. I do recall references to waxy maize, I thought you were playing on words!

Interesting that despite Volek & Phinney's "study" at the ultra, Tim Olson made no mention of UCAN in his diary.

My comment about the patent is inline with what you are saying here. Scholar searches those applications and every now and then you find a crapload associated with scientists -- my memory if failing me at the moment for one very prominent one who is all over a ton of patent apps. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it muddies the waters significantly.

Not necessarily related, but I'm recalling a Westman study that pitted 6 mos ad lib VLC vs. 6 mos CR low-GI diet in diabetics. The results were ultimately rather less than what was hyped -- 95% of the LC group was able to reduce or eliminate their meds!! Of course that was mostly insulin, which, duh, eat less carb, need less insulin ... inconsequential.

But we also learn that the VLC group also received BG lowering supplement blend supplied by Atkins Nutritionals if I'm not mistaken (the source would only further taint the study, it's the deliberate introduction of the confounder that matters here). Now either Westman & Co are going to contend that the supplement is so ineffective as to render this confounder irrelevant, OR their entire study is shit because you gave an effective supplement to only one group. Either way, after that study, I don't trust Westman.

Javeaux was right. It seems it's always "what are you hiding" with this crew. :(
Jane said…
Interesting link, g2sb.

'.. I think educating parents on the truth behind other products and comparing them to Super Starch in a simple way is a start. In order to make a nutrition product something that athletes can’t live without, it needs to serve a purpose in their life or they won’t care about it. So, that’s where I think the benefits of no GI distress come in to play for a lot of my athletes. Once I was able to show the difference between eating a heavy meal or drinking a UCAN shake and how much better their stomach felt during the workout, that was a selling point for them. Now they can’t train without it and they are telling their teammates, family members, and so on. ..'

So it's addictive. It works by suppressing GI distress symptoms. Who gets GI distress? People who eat refined carbs like Super Starch.
Anonymous said…
I saw this - followed the links to the Volek white paper - but all I could think was 'resistant starch.'

How is this any different from resistant starch?

I have resistant starch in my pantry (bought from Honeyville, the company's website) and use it. I'll use it a whole lot more now! It must have magical powers!

RS is very good in pancakes or fritters for example - it makes them crispier, it doesn't add to or detract from the taste, and it's great fiber.

Lerner said…
Evelyn, I wasn't criticizing, just noting -- and yes, even though I don't read here every day, I have seen you talking about being very busy for the past weeks.

(So from now on, whenever I post a joke or a play on words, I'll use the secret word bazinga -- nobody else uses that word.)

wrt to the patent application, that brings yet another of the seeming ironies: Pharma is (rightly) accused of oftentimes altering (in structure or delivery) something natural that already works, but can't be profited on because it's not patentable. Fish oil (Lovaza) and niacin (Niaspan) alterations come to mind.

So what's different about replacing corn with this modified and highly processed corn? Nothing. Sure, they'll have some flimsy rationalizations, but none will really hold water. Things have to be patentable in order to make money off of them.
Lerner said…
They would likely just say that the absorption of carbs is so slow that it goes exclusively into the muscle cells and doesn't provoke other changes in the liver or elsewhere. Then again, I don't really know what it purportedly does because I've tuned out all the talk about HDP since I'd first heard of it -- just another flash in the pan in the world of supplements, IMO.

However, AFAIK this is the inaugural product in duplicating the experience of the Atkins commercial empire: selling to the eagerly gullible. This sets up the possibility of cans of UCAnn being on clearance at 90% off, just like Atkins was with the previous generation of marketers.
Lerner said…
There are the no-carb Quest Bars, of course. I never did try any of them, I'd heard that there were free samples only years after the free samples had dried up, so I never got any. Paying for that would be silly.

I see that they now have no-carb Reeses Cups.

UCann must be small potatoes with no backer if they can't afford a free-sample blitz to get word of mouth going. Maybe that deluded billionaire of Taubes will kick in one day.
Lerner said…
What is the Taramuhara longevity like?
g2sb said…

I don't subscribe to cable TV and I don't follow Oz, so I can't comment about his show or the response to it in any useful way.

Let's not taint Taubes by the musings of his commenters (lest ye be tainted by mine.)

Attia, I believe, was limiting protein and seeking ketosis as a self-experiment in ketosis, not as a particular advocate of ketosis for you and me.

On Volek, do you not find his research interesting and useful? Is not the Atkins style of dieting often a reasonable start for a difficult program of weight loss? Why not be respectful of Volek and his research and writings related to that style of dieting?

And why the stop energy on NuSI? The proof - as always - is in the pudding, but can't we just say Godspeed and support NuSI's public mission? Almost all good research is initiated from a particular perspective. Could any of Taubes, Volek, Finney, Attia, or Eades tie their respective shoes to suit the bright and often enlightening author of the Carb Sane-Asylum blog? Maybe those guys are just incorrect in particulars rather than idiots.

Emerging insights about diet-and-gut-sourced inflammation might provide a common framework into which many researchers and diet gurus can find some small comfort in their previous prescriptions. A cool thing, it appears to me, is that all may emerge as vindicated in part: the low carbers, the low fatters, the vegetarians, the energy density focused, the reward and palatability focused, and especially the potato-friendly-paleos.
Lerner said…
Aha, so it's for the children! Well, the marketers will eventually hit this brick wall: the little devils won't want it unless it's sweet tasting.

Maybe the company will also give away action figures, something like a Ronald McUcan.

Simon Carter said…
It's all about the money, honey!
To Unknown - your SuperDuperStarch killed me!!
CarbSane said…
Cyanide is natural ;-)

Certainly sounds about as natural as HFCS to me!
Anonymous said…
Their LE is about 45. Kids have nutrient deficiencies and severe anemia on that high-carb diet, and they have very high infant and child mortality.
Jane said…
I just looked up Honeyville resistant starch and under Ingredients it says starch and nothing else. I think SuperStarch must be pure starch as well, just a very large molecule. I suppose resistant starch is good from the point of view that it feeds gut bacteria, but why not make the stuff from the whole grain so the bacteria get all the minerals they need as well? These same minerals are needed by the pancreas to prevent the blood sugar spikes and crashes SuperStarch is supposed to prevent.
CarbSane said…
I don't follow Oz either. That wasn't really the point, more the bashing he took in the comments on Gary's blog about his botched interview. It goes on elsewhere too, and some of it is legit criticism. I'm just drawing an analogy there, because his detractors in the LC community never acknowledge any of the good he does.

There's enough LC rah rah for the cause to go around, I don't feel the need to waste my time on half-hearted sucking up. This way, I suppose, if I do make an acknowledgement folks know I mean it, and am not just prefacing everything with pap.

Look, Gary Taubes will go down in history as a footnote. His hypothesis is one that should never have been proposed. There is SOOOOO much science disputing it. He is not a scientist and has no training in a related field. So what he's done is spawn a renegade movement, but one comment Peter Attia made here demonstrates the problem perfectly. Yeah, what good would practicing medicine for, say, 10 more years have done but indoctrinate him in CW he's decided is horribly wrong. He clearly believes insulin is the problematic cause, or he wouldn't have declared war on the hormone! I'm reading V&P's first book in little spurts and they only add to the garbage out there. Eating carbs (large amounts of fructose in hypercaloric state excepted) does not cause insulin resistance. The science is abundantly clear on that.

Most of what these guys say hasn't been studied actually has. So wish NuSI Godspeed? Eh ... I weighed in on that: It's an organization for notoriety and perhaps profit.

I don't think Taubes cares a wit about helping people. I have a hard time imagining any of these guys really do -- anywhere up on their priority lists anyway. Attia's and Taubes' petition to the NYT, signed by V&P (don't recall if Eades signed on) was DISGUSTING. There's no other word for that stunt -- for what? For these men to puff their chests and smear an overweight woman who was merely pointing out the obvious? Sure, she made some excuses, but these guys are either blind or they don't give a shit about the masses who buy their pseudoscience when it fails them. They've all been to LC events. They know the reality out there.

Eades is the creepiest one of the bunch. A diet book author hack who had a good run playing scientist and sounding like he knew what he was talking about. Failed as a Mexican restaurant fast food franchiser, wants to change the world with expensive counter-space hogging sous vide machines, while needing to hide his girth by wearing girdles and/or hiding behind counters and the long ago hung-up doctors' coat. Hard to take that man seriously. Sorry.

So yeah, this latest little twist to LC moral bankruptcy is rather upsetting to me.

As Simon said below, it's all about the money, honey. I agree.

CarbSane said…
BTW, in re-reading Stephan's comment, he said nothing about gut flora. The breakdown of resistant starch and butyrate formation plays a signaling role that nutrition has reached the gut and I think the evidence is clear this somehow influences metabolism through incretins. The GBP mechanisms of diabetes reversal are not known, they just know it works in short order and is long lasting in a significant portion of those who undergo the procedure.

Thing is, if this is what's going on with SS, it's not such a ready supply of glucose after all. Kinda hard to be both.

CarbSane said…
Jane asks "who has GI distress?" ... Yeah, I'd like to know this too. Elite endurance athletes, and people who engage in excessive exercise apparently, who must eat a lot before and or during to sustain the activity.

I was extremely active in high school, and this is why I got so ticked off by that We Are Hungry video with volleyball players fainting and such if they didn't get their 800 cal lunches.

In college I had even more opportunity to do various activities back-to-back. There were days when after class I'd go run a couple miles before playing volleyball for 2-3 hours and then go do gymnastics for another hour or two after that after walking back and forth to the dorm room across campus. When I did a sprint tri in the early 90's I would do my run/bike at home, but I also played IM softball,volleyball and swam when at grad school.

I've cycled at a fair clip for over an hour on a hot day with nothing but a water bottle and barely drained that. Yeah, I realize competition = higher level of exertion = higher need for nutrition. But athletes playing sports? I used to play soccer and lacrosse and baseball and -- yes! -- football and volleyball and .... The worst that ever happened to any of us related to our training might have been exhaustion/dehydration if it was too hot outside. A drink of water and/or a few orange slices were the go-tos then. Other than that we made it through practice without a need to eat or GI distress. This just seems so foreign to me.

We're talking about that EVIL chronic cardio! How disjointed is that? Trying to market a diet and drink for endurance events in a community that otherwise generally reviles exercising for more than 2 minutes once a week.

CarbSane said…
Hey, have you been reading my draft posts somehow? I used bazinga in the title of one that's in the hopper! LOL. I just didn't want you to think I was ignoring what you posted, I just thought waxy maize was being snarky ;) Speaking of WM though, the trainer interviewed in Attia's blog "tried everything" including ... da da daaah ... waxy maize!!
Lerner said…
I was going to say: why not just eat corn? But really, what we're talking about here is a specialty supplement for ultra endurance athletes (only a tiny number must exist in the country) that is being marketed to the masses. They want to grab a piece of the ultra lucrative Gatorade market.

All of these supposedly super-duper (TM Unknown) supplements have the same pattern. Come up with one or two small studies, hype things to the max, get some testimonials (the placebo effect galore) and sell it to the gullible. Rinse and repeat to move on to the next super supplement, when this one doesn't live up to its promise. PT Barnum knew more about human nature than psychologists or philosophers.
Lerner said…
Why is Attia publishing what looks like a two part commercial for UCAN? Does he have a stake in the company? Was he some kind of investor at some time?
CarbSane said…
According to this ( your UCAN obituary may be premature :(

Having abandoned his war on insulin, Attia's eating academy boasts the tagline "customized eating solutions based on real science". Sorry, hard to take a man seriously who has learned his biochem/physio/metabolism from Gary Taubes.

Here's his bio:

Laments how much we spend on healthcare, ignores his own contribution to how much is wasted on pie-in-the-sky diet and nutrition aids. Shame on you Dr. Attia!

He clearly left medicine for finance. 'Nuf said.

I think it is fair to ask him if he has any stake in UCAN.
g2sb said…
Thank you for the substantial replies.

Yes, Guyenet didn't reference gut flora in the comment to Attia's posting, but use of slow-to-digest foods that result in transfer of significant digestion to the distal small intestine may very well influence the inflammatory response from gut flora. From other postings, Stephan is definitely thinking about inflammation and it's impact on CNS signaling related to diet. I look forward to watching his related AHS-2012 presentation, and with any luck, it will be posted soon.

There does indeed seem to be increasingly good evidence about the utility of flora-produced butyrate from resistant starches and inulin/FOS. (Eat onions - smile.) The butyrate-producing action of interest is apparently in the large intestine where microflora populations are much, much larger than in the small intestine.

Anonymous said…

'Honeyville's Hi-Maize Resistant Starch is a starch that can be used to increase the nutritional value of the foods you love. Hi-Maize 260 can be added to almost any food without changing the taste or appearance. Just 15 grams of Hi-Maize contains 9 grams of dietary fiber, which is twice as much fiber contained in 1 cup of oatmeal. Hi-Maize gets its natural dietary fiber from corn. Honeyville Hi-Maize Resistant Starch is an ideal product for your baking needs.'

I'm not even going to speculate on the pros and cons of this kind of fiber, compared to, say, oatmeal. It has more fiber, true, but resistant starch in itself, and its effects in the body, have been studied. So have the effects of oatmeal in the body.

My bag of resistant starch has a nutritional label:
serving size 28 g
calories 40
calories from fat 5
total fat 0
saturated fat 0
trans fat 0
cholesterol 0
sodium 15 mg
total carbohydrate 25 g
dietary fiber 15 g
sugars 0
protein 0
Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Iron, Calcium 0

On the package:
'Hi-Maize 260 resistant starch is a natural food starch... Hi-Maize promotes digestive health and helps moderate blood sugar levels. Foods made with Hi-Maize show increased expansion, enhanced crispiness and improved mouth feel. Hi-Maize is a registered trademark for Natural Starch and Chemical Company.'

There is a short sentence about how the starch behaves in the short intestine and long intestine, but that sentence lacks grammatical sense ('resists digestion is a small intestine')!

The Honeyville folks don't have to sell this stuff as a miracle food for weight control. It's also sold by King Arthur Flour.

Their reference to prebiotic properties is in passing and they aren't hawking it as a weight-loss miracle.

There's no need to modify this stuff. It's used in baking already, probably to make some foods or crackers higher in fiber. There are many studies in NCBI about the benefits of resistant starch and they are all interesting.

Resistant starch is also contained in cold cooked potatoes. Yay, potato salad!

Lerner said…
Evelyn, that site [] looks like a place where they pay $195/yr in order to post their press releases. About the lowest order of evidence is using testimonials - but that testimonial isn't even from the tennis player, it's from the guy's physiotherapist (knee injury involved). So the player loses 30 pounds and oh btw the guy's improvement is supposedly really from more energy from the canned corn?

Even so, while the exercise/nutrition bloggers might have abandoned the canned corn, that doesn't mean the company can't still sell to the average shmoe.

Btw, whenever I see testimonials I think of the multi-week study where they gave steroid pills to weightlifters and found very dramatic improvements -- but oops, it turns out that the pills were fake.
Jane said…
Thanks eulerandothers, that paper you linked is very interesting. I think the best explanation for the remarkable effects is that resistant starch improves magnesium absorption.

'In 1977 it was observed that resistant starch, a fermentable dietary fiber, could improve Mg absorption in rats. More recently, attention has been focused on other fermentable substrates such as inulin and oligo- or polysaccharides, for their potential prebiotic and health effects. Studies conducted on different types of fermentable carbohydrates have confirmed their beneficial effect on Mg absorption in different animal species. The majority of these studies have also sought to determine the effects of fibers on other minerals such as calcium, iron and zinc. In contrast to the studies with Mg, these studies did not show a consistent effect on the absorption of these minerals. This is due to the particularities of sites and mechanism of Mg absorption. To date, four human studies have been carried out that generally confirmed the enhancing effect of fermentable oligo- or polysaccharides on Mg absorption. ..'

'Effects of Dietary Fibers on Magnesium Absorption in Animals and Humans'
CarbSane said…
The market will be the weekend warrior types and amateur endurance athletes. So sad really. If there aren't provable effects under the most extreme circumstances ....
Lerner said…
About the fake steroid study, notice that subjects said they had experienced "increased vigor during training".

That'll be sure to also be claimed by every testimonial for the canned corn.

Btw, there's also something out there about HDP inhibiting mineral absorption (copper and zinc especially)
Lerner said…
Did somebody comment recently about a guy named Greenfield being poised to join the LC marketing? Here he is with UCAN during a triathlon:
"1) UCAN Superstarch - eat 2 servings for breakfast (mashed with a banana) and then one densely mixed bottle of UCAN (200 calories per hour) on the bike downtube and one Nathan running flask for the run (also mixed for about 200 calories per hour)."

I have no knowledge of him. But notice that intra-race use of low-GI canned corn is different than Olson's use of fast maltodextrin.

Btw, here are the names of the researchers on the provisional patent application:
Kaufman Peter
Murali Shoba
Volek Jeff S

Something seems odd, the app was in Dec of 2009 and the protection expires after one year. Why don't they have a real patent by now? Maybe the process isn't patentable after all? I didn't sign up for an account to read about the process.

CarbSane said…
Strange: "The present invention is directed to a method of controlling serum insulin levels in an individual, the method comprising the step of administering to the individual a food composition comprising heat and moisture treated starch (HMT starch)."


Looks like they are trying to patent a use for this starch, a method of administering it via UCAN?? Controlling serum insulin levels is an "invention"????

They don't make the starch, Glycologic apparently holds the patent on that(?)
IP WO/2005/044284
Lerner said…
That is strange about the patent, in fact it took me a while to absorb it (ha!).

That fits with it not being patentable after all, and with their not pursuing getting a real patent. Meanwhile, a merely provisional patent is not evaluated on its merits, it's mainly just a placeholder - but it also does give you the right to very publicly say "patent pending". The masses won't know the difference.

Also, "Dr. Tester is the founder of Glycologic Limited..." and here he is on the canned corn advisory board:

Now... carb-talk aside, what are the odds of a lab scientist being called Dr. Tester? :)
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SteveK said…
For what it's worth, I think the benefit of Ucan over Malto is found in the fact that it absorbs quickly while under physical duress and doesn't promote gut rot.

I run marathons and I've experienced gut rot from too many gels and Gatorade more times that I can count. You cannot absorb Malto or Fructose after a while, and you either run out of fuel or you are forced to slow down. Neither option is good. Apparently the Ucan product overcomes this problem. I say apparently because I haven't tried it yet, but will give it a try. Nothing beats testing.

Speaking of that, I tested Vitargo for myself, a similar high-MW carb drink with similar claims. I liked it and for me it worked better than Malto gels and/or Gatorade. My stomach was much happier at mile 21.

I'm trying Ucan because it MAY offer one additional advantage over Vitargo - a lower insulin response and a better ability to stay in the fat burning mode.
Deborah Coy-Cirillo said…
Well, having participated in multiple Ironman triathlon, 70.3 events, marathons and 1/2marathons, I thought I would try this new "Wunder Carb".
First off, it tastes like someone put sand in your water. Then comes the taste. I got past that. Then about halfway through my work out I was exhausted, and had a gut ache. EVERY TIME I tried it. And I tried it at least a half dozen times. So today, I went back to my GU products. I had no gut issues, had a great "even keel" energy level for over 2 hours, AND I didn't get diarrhea halfway through my workout!
carbsane said…
Appreciate the first hand input! Thanks for commenting.
carbsane said…
No, my AUC analysis was intentionally of the spike reflecting glucose absorption. If SS is digested and absorbed and provides equivalent "glucose energy" without the insulin spike, we should see it in the AUC. Generally when there is lower glucose (in the same person) for similar doses, it can be traced to an enhanced insulin response, but with SS that isn't the case.

FWIW, you should contact UCAN for an endorsement deal :-)
Van Dieu said…
I suppose you are right. How could I possibly know any better. I guess someone like recent Boston Marathon WINNER Meb Keflezhigi is an idiot for wasting his time with such a useless product and would do even better by sticking to the usual fructose and maltodex guff. ;)
Rebecca said…
I've been using UCAN this season with good success in terms of GI happiness and performance. I am curious, however, to experiment with making my own proprietary sports drink using corn and/or potato starch. Sure would be cheaper, UCAN is one of the most expensive drinks out there. Thanks for this analysis, it was interesting.
Jeff Gaudette said…
Or, maybe he's paid handsomely to use or promote UCAN regardless of whether it works better or not. I'm sure Meb would never turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Further, have you ever seen what it's in his bottle to confirm it's even UCan? You can put anything in those, so he could still get paid and not have to actually use the product.
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