Starches and carbohydrates often get a bad rap in health and dieting circles, but, according to a new study from scientists at the University of Colorado Denver, certain starches can actively reduce symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease and other gastrointestinal disorders, heal colon damage, and ward off bowel cancer.
Live Science reports the new paper, published in the Current Opinion in Gastroenterology journal, reveals so called ‘resistant’ starches ferment in the colon leading to the growth of beneficial bacteria that aids digestion as well as promoting numerous other health benefits. Resistant starches are found in carbohydrates that resist digestion after they are eaten and begin to pass through the small intestine and into the colon. These beneficial resistant starches are found in parts of foods including corn, beans, peas and other legumes, green bananas, seeds as well as in room temperature rice and pasta.
Recorded in Science Daily, Dr. Janine Higgins, the lead investigator in the study says “You have to consume [rice and pasta] at room temperate or below – as soon as you heat it, the resistant starch is gone. But consumed correctly, it appears to kill pre-cancerous cells in the bowel.”
During the study, rats that were fed resistant starches showed a decrease in the volume and size of colorectal cancer lesions. The test rats also developed an increase in the number of cells that produce IL-10, a protein which acts to regulate the body’s natural inflammatory response. As Live Science notes, there have been numerous studies into the health benefits of resistant starches. Research has also shown resistant starches improve insulin sensitivity and the regulation of blood sugar to prevent diabetes, and also help to maintain a healthy body weight.
While this current research into intestinal applications has largely been tested on laboratory rats as well as limited clinical trials, Dr. Higgins is optimistic the study will lead to further developments in gastrointestinal treatments. Scientists are also hopeful the study on the colorectal cancer preventing properties of resistant starches can be used to research treatments for other cancers, specifically breast cancer where the benefits of resistant starches are also currently being examined.