It has been interesting to watch the discussions about safe starches on those rather limited areas of the internet which I frequent. Now, you have to understand that I have always eaten a certain amount of starch. Usually chips deep fried in beef dripping to go with a fairly standard high fat supper. Sweet potatoes and parsnips are the two usual sources. Certainly two or three times a week. I’m not obese and certainly not post-obese, so I have some freedom in this. I’ve never been zero carb though I am very low carb and I run in mild ketosis pretty much all of the time nowadays.
My routes in to LC, other than the initial window through Atkins, were Kwasniewski, Bernstein, Groves and Lutz. Lutz was such a nice chap, certainly in his writing. He was perfectly willing to work at mere LC levels rather than VLC (72g/d was his advice) and he was very up front that LC would not work for everyone. For inflammatory bowel disease (he was a gastroenterologist) he expected progressive improvement over two years, not two weeks. He discussed that people experiencing failure of LC for weight loss might eventually need to go to simple calorie restricted diets (and I guess he knew they would fail on that too). He had an awareness that exposing an immune system, crippled and ineffective through years of hyperglycaemia, to sudden onset normoglycaemia might render if truly functional for the first time in decades and so exacerbate auto immune attack. Being a medic he would just reach for a 5 day prednisolone course as a simple expedient. For MS patients, many of whom respond very well to LC diets, he took them to around 100g/d initially then down to 72g/d after a few weeks. This is old stuff.
For people to convert from any particular macronutrient ratio to what is a modest, rather than very, low carbohydrate diet is fine by me.
What I have found very disturbing is the long list of potentially catastrophic problems reported to be associated with the type of food choices I make, where there is an edge of ketosis present much of the time. I have said before, I like to have a few ketones available.
It is quite possible that I, and virtually every lab rodent ever placed on a ketogenic diet, might be oddities. Or it might be that 12 years on a very low carbohydrate diet is too soon for the scurvy, thyroid deficiency, auto immune attack or glucose deficiency to get me. Perhaps it will happen tomorrow. But imagine how much money you could save on genetically the modified mice needed for auto immunity research if a simple ketogenic diet gave you a virtually free supply.
There is a saying in the medical community (used by those of us with any sense of self questioning) which goes along the lines of “Clinical experience is no guide to therapeutic efficacy”. One has only to look at a cardiologist with a statin prescription in their hand to understand this. My favourite example is that old chestnut from the siege of Turin during 1536 when Paré realised that pouring boiling oil in to gunshot wounds (the Gold Standard medical treatment of the day, to flush out the toxic carbon particles from the gunpowder residue dontchano) was, to put it mildly, a bit of a booboo.
So I had a listen to the AHS panel discussion on safe starches. The first thing I realised was that no one was making a case for metabolically safe starches, the "safe" referred to a lack of specific plant poisons. Metabolic safety seemed to be a given. I rather liked the lady clinician, she sounded just like Lutz. I loved Chris Kessler too, on C. elegans research. The world is full of people who seem to think humans are unique, free from the metabolic constraints which affect mere nematodes. When my own clients query, in wonder, that cats can get Alzheimers, diabetes, hypertension etc, my reply is that there is nothing special about humans. Failure to learn from C. elegans will lead to some interesting booboos, hopefully not as painful as the boiling oil fiasco.
Ron Rosedale was the only person who came over as making any metabolic sense or having any deep understanding of the processes involved in the signalling subsequent to metabolism.
I have an approach to life. I resist insulin. Running on the edge of ketosis, with a major preponderance of long chain saturated fatty acids as metabolic substrate, I expect to be insulin resistant. I am. It is pure physiology. I like to have uncoupled mitochondria running with a relatively low delta psi, high oxygen consumption and low free radical leakage. On isolated occasions, a few times a week, my parsnip chips will spike my blood glucose and delta psi for an hour or so and generate a few extra superoxide/H2O2 molecules above basal levels. I hope that’s enough for generating a decent number of healthy mitochondria. I don't know if I am correct.
So. I think people should feel free to make their own choices about starch intake. I can't see anything convincing in the concerns that very low carb eating will run you in to a host of medical problems. I'm very uncomfortable with the rhetoric. Quote of the year for 2014 comes from Sid Dishes, relating to the rise of auto immunity caused by VLC eating (I'm possibly only approximately accurate): "Hypothyroidism is so 2011". Sid keeps coming up with these lovely phrases on Facebook. Personally I see no need to add extra starches to what I already eat (between 30 and 60g/d of carbs). This is my rut. I like it.
As we all know only too well, we only get one shot at this. As the Red Hot Chili Peppers said “This life is more than just a read-through”.