BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - You're used to seeing salt and pepper shakers on the dinner table, but what if there was a third shaker with an ingredient to stop diabetes? Researchers at Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge think they're on to something.
Adults with pre-diabetes are needed for the STARCH study. It focuses on a type of fiber called slowly digestible starch (SDS), also known as resistant starch.
“It's called resistant starch because your body doesn't digest it, but the bacteria in your gut do, and they produce a lot of beneficial compounds that we're only just beginning to understand,” said Dr. Courtney Peterson, a researcher taking part in the study.
The benefits of eating resistant starch have already been shown in mice, helping obese mice to slim down. Now the same theory is being tested in humans.
For this study, participants like Pamela Jolivette eat two servings of yogurt containing the starch per day for three months. Mixing the yogurt as a smoothie is another option.
Being at high risk for diabetes, Jolivette knew she needed to fix bad habits, and she's excited with the results so far.
“It actually made me feel better about myself,” she said. “Toward the end of the study, I noticed that my clothes were fitting better, and I noticed that I felt energized. I felt more energy to do more things. I wasn't as sluggish, and I knew I shouldn't keep up the habits.”
Like most studies at Pennington, the potential benefits are exciting and far-reaching. If successful, resistant starch could show up on dinner tables across the world, appearing in all sorts of foods and nutrition bars.
“One, we think it may reduce your hunger hormones,” Peterson explained. “So these are the hormones that tell you how hungry you are. They influence your perception of your hunger, and they also influence how much you eat. The second thing is, these bacteria may actually help you better control your blood sugar. They may do this by slowing down how quickly your body absorbs sugar from your intestine, and they may release beneficial things that help reduce the inflammation in your body, which helps your body keep your blood sugar levels lower.”
The study offers monetary compensation up to $1,000, but also requires two overnight stays about 48 hours each. State-of-the-art testing is done to evaluate your body before and after the three-month starch regimen, including a test that shows your daily calorie count.
“It's a special test that's not available many places in the world, so if you participate in this study, you actually get to know how many calories you're burning a day,” Peterson said. “We'll also measure your blood sugar control – how rapidly does your blood sugar rise when you eat a meal and how quickly does it fall – and we'll look at the hunger hormones as well, and then lastly we'll also look at the healthy bacteria in your gut.”
“I brought some activities for me to do, so I read and I followed their guidelines, and it was very easy. It was like being away from home in a hotel, so it was real nice,” Jolivette said.
She used the experience to jump-start her journey to a healthier lifestyle, potentially paving the way for millions of others.
“So many factors affect your health, and it's really important to work on all of them,” Peterson said. “That includes sleep, your emotional well-being, what you eat and how you exercise, so [resistant starch] would be one component of that, but it may help you get a long ways of the way toward a healthier lifestyle and better health.”
The STARCH study seeks overweight men and women between ages 35 and 75, especially those with pre-diabetes.