New research shows resistant starch can improve health

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COLUMBIA - New research suggests that a type of fiber called resistant starch can have a positive impact on health.

The research found that the starch helps keep the intestines working well, and it also increases satiety, or the feeling of "fullness," which helps with weight loss.

University of Missouri Health Care Clinical Dietician Ashley Ritzo said the unique way the starch is digested is what makes it so beneficial.

"Resistant starch is a type of fiber," Ritzo said. "It resists digestion in your small intestine and passes into your large intestine, where it’s fermented by various bacteria that have health benefits to humans."

Ritzo also said the bacteria used to ferment the starch is very beneficial to a person's health.

"It has been shown to have health benefits like anti-cancer benefits, and anti-inflammation," Ritzo said. "They help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and obesity, and some research is even coming out now about the potential mental health benefits that this bacteria could have."

The fermentation of the resistant starch creates short-chain fatty acids as by-products. These fatty acids are known for also having health benefits.

"The short-chain fatty acids actually feed the cells that line the large intestine and have anti-cancer benefits." Ritzo said.

Ritzo said resistant starch can be found in the largest quantities in foods like under-ripe bananas, legumes and unrefined grains, like quinoa farro. 

Ritzo said there is no specific recommendation for how much resistant starch a person should consume each day.

"It is a type of fiber, and the recommendations for fiber are 30 or more grams a day," Ritzo said. "So in general, if you’re eating a diet that’s rich in whole, unrefined plant-based foods, then you are getting some of the benefits of resistant starch."