Bifidogenic Potato Starch

Somewhere along the lines, people have started thinking that raw potato starch (RPS) is somehow bad for the gut biome. Years back, I read many papers discussing the “bifidogenic” properties of RPS, or its ability to specifically grow Bifidobacteria. Bifido is one of the few types of bacteria that is thought to be particularly healthful when found in a human gut.

Raw potato starch or HAM (high amylose maize) which are RS2, resistant starch type 2, the kind of starch that humans do not consume because they come from toxic plants and raw materials humans learned to cook or process (with lime/ash) before eating.  – Grace Liu, PHARMD

In 2013, I did an American Gut test and found that my gut bacteria was 10% Bifidobacteria, and that was after several months of supplementing my diet with RPS.  Seemed great, but there were no “before” tests to show more of the story.

Since then, I’ve done numerous tests with AmGut and uBiome.  Two recent tests paint a pretty good picture of just what RPS does to Bifidobacteria:

Further analyzed, for those that track such things [using MG-Rast analysis]:

40g Multi-fiber Diet (Bifido was 1% of total gut flora):

82% Bifidobacterium breve
17% B. dentium
.5%  B. longum
.3%  B. ruminatum
.2%  B. psuedolongum
.03% B. adolescentis
.02% B. merycicum
.009% B. boum

40g Raw Potato Starch (Bifido was 18% of total gut flora):

93% B. breve
3%  B. longum
2%  B. pseudolongum
1%  B. animalis
.1% B. merycicum
.07% B. boum
.03% B. adolescentis

The biggest surprise here to me was the predominace of B. breve, a normal human type, and the sheer number of bifido species. Individual results certainly will vary. I have no idea how I got so lucky to harbor all of these bifido types, I certainly did not pay for any of them!

A 2015 paper says of B. breve:

These results suggest that this strain may be of interest for increasing the intestinal barrier against pathogens, firstly by strengthening the physical resistance of the epithelial layer and secondly by modulating the immune system towards a preactivated steady state.

I have not taken any probiotics in the past year or more. These are all naturally occurring. Just remember:

You can pick your food, but you can’t pick your bifidobacteria!  -Albert Einstein*

(* just kidding, it was me)

I’ve yet to see any paper that says a particular strain is bad. Any “gut guru” who says otherwise is simply making it all up, probably to sell you something “guaranteed to grow” a particular strain of bifido.

The Food

The diets differed only in fiber supplementation. On the multi-fiber diet, I was using a prebiotic blend consisting of inulin (10g), wheat dextrin (10g), apple pectin (5g), PHGG (5g), XOS (5g), and RPS (5g).

The RPS diet was supplemented with 4TBS of raw potato starch total (2TBS w/ lunch, 2TBS w/ dinner).

The food portion consisted of plant-heavy, non-processed foods, a la Angelo Coppola’s Plant Paleo. My interpretation of this diet is “vegan with meat,” or basically just an omnivorous diet without the massive quantities of animal protein that the typical paleo diet prescribes.  I eat some fermented foods like sauerkraut, yogurt, and cheese every day.

Conclusion

This comparison is only intended to show a specific bifidogenic factor attributed to RPS. I am not recommending one supplementation protocol over another, and as always, real food is the most important factor. If you are looking for a cheap, effective prebiotic, raw potato starch is possibly one of the most effective. But please experiment and find what makes you feel good!

Raw Potato Starch appears to have definite bifidogenic properties as stated in numerous research papers such as:

Adhesion of Bifidobacteria to Granular Starch and Its Implications in Probiotic Technologies

Native wheat, potato and pea starches and their physically modified preparations tested in vitro as the substrates for selected Bifidobacterium strains.

Two Routes of Metabolic Cross-Feeding between Bifidobacterium adolescentis and Butyrate-Producing Anaerobes from the Human Gut

Screening for and Identification of Starch-, Amylopectin-, and Pullulan-Degrading Activities in Bifidobacterial Strains

Effects of rice starch-isoflavone diet or potato starch-isoflavone diet on plasma isoflavone, plasma lipids, cecal enzyme activity, and composition of fecal microflora in adult mice.

Consumption of raw potato starch increases colon length and fecal excretion of purine bases in growing pigs.

Tim Steele

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