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Paul Jaminet, PhD is an astrophysicist from MIT and Berkley with a strong interest in health and diet which began after he experienced personal health challenges, which did not respond to conventional medicine.
He and Dr. Ron Rosedale, M.D. have recently been having a lively internet debate about whether or not “safe starches” will augment your health.
Dr. Jaminet believes that carbohydrates from starches such as potatoes and cooked rice are healthful “safe starches” that, if completely avoided, can lead to “glucose deficiency.”
Dr. Rosedale disagrees.
According to Dr. Rosedale, all sugars and foods that convert into sugar will have a detrimental effect if eaten. He argues that while a daily bowl of rice’s-worth of carbohydrates may seem like a small amount, it may still make a big difference in terms of your health, especially for those with diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.
I recently commented on their debate here. Their discussion continues in the featured article on Dr. Rosedale’s website. It’s an extensive 53 page document, but well worth reading if you are interested in this subject.
Here, I will only highlight a few of the points made. For the rest, please continue on to Dr. Rosedale’s site.
This is a Controversial Topic
As you will see if you review Dr. Jaminet’s website, he disagrees with Dr. Rosedale’s supposition, and believes that glucose does indeed serve some useful functions. We only have a limited store of glycogen and if we deplete it we could stress other systems to provide the glucose our body requires to perform.
As I see it, this is really a non-issue for most people as they will not even get close to Dr. Jaminet’s suggestion of reducing carb calories from the standard 50 percent that most people consume, to 20-30 percent of total calories from carbs.
The key is to replace the carbs with healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, egg yolks, raw grass fed organic butter, olives and nuts. You would not want to use highly processed and genetically engineered omega-6 oils like corn, canola and soy as they will upset your omega 6/3 ratio. Of course you want to avoid all trans fats, but contrary to popular advice, saturated fats can be very good for you.
I believe that Dr. Jaminet’s diet, as outlined in his book, Perfect Health Diet, can indeed improve your health and is something most people would notice health benefits from. I like the fact that he is constantly evolving and modifying and willing to carefully corroborate his recommendations with the literature.
Like Rungs on the Same Ladder
If you are interested in exploring using diet to extend your lifespan, then Dr. Rosedale’s diet, which is even more carb-restrictive, has been shown to mimic the biological effects of calorie restriction—which most notably includes an extended life span, as revealed by researchers such as Cynthia Kenyon—without actually cutting calories per se.
I believe Dr. Rosedale may be correct when he says:
“What is becoming clear is that a high fat diet, which I believe is far superior to high-carbohydrate, low-fat diets, must be accompanied by very low (non-fiber) carbohydrate consumption in order for the deeper health benefits to be realized.” [Emphasis mine]
It’s important to realize that we are not necessarily biologically ‘wired’ to live very long, healthy lives. We are wired for healthy reproduction, but once our reproductive years are over, nature doesn’t really care about our extended survival. However, as Dr. Rosedale points out, we can use what we know about nature’s secrets for keeping our bodies healthy enough for reproduction, and apply those secrets to our post-reproductive years.
To do that, all we have to go on is the best science currently available related to longevity and life extension, of which the science of dramatic carb restriction is one of the most prominent.
Glucose Damage is a Matter of Degrees
One of the primary contentions between Drs. Jaminet and Rosedale’s diets is whether or not there is a blood glucose level below which no damage will occur. Dr. Jaminet assumes (incorrectly, according to Dr. Rosedale) that it is possible to suffer ill health effects from glucose being too low, i.e. “glucose deficiency.
According to Dr. Rosedale:
“… [T]he support that Jaminet is able to muster from other articles he presents, is only derived by his improbable assumption that, since glucose spikes were not measured, that they mustn’t have ever gone above 140 mg/dl. Further ‘support’ was only secondary to a large error in conversion between blood and plasma glucose.”
Dr. Rosedale, points out that because glucose consumption will undoubtedly spike blood glucose levels and increase insulin and leptin, promoting resistance, glucose consumption is always associated with some incremental degree of damage and/or increased risk of mortality.
“I believe the only conclusion that can be drawn from these and related studies that were presented, is the same as the authors’ conclusions; that fasting and 2 hr. glucose above some number, 100 mg/dl?, 105 mg/dl?, is correlated with some incremental degree of damage and/or mortality, and this is considerably less than 140 mg/dL that Jaminet has said is safe,” he says.
“One can’t pin one’s hope on only doing what is natural,” Dr. Rosedale says. “Post reproductive death is extremely natural. We can only rely on science, especially the science of the biology of aging, to show how to live a long, post-reproductive lifespan…
Raising insulin and leptin repeatedly has extremely adverse consequences that I feel are instrumental in the early onset of virtually all of the chronic diseases of aging and in fact accelerating aging itself.
Nature’s concern for us only goes so far; namely for us to be healthy to have reproductive success, after which she loses interest. It is also natural to die, but we are reading this to avoid that natural event. I have no qualms about saying that what I’m doing and teaching to be healthy is quite unnatural, as it is the quest to be able to live a long, happy, and youthful life after making babies.”
Is Glucose Necessary for Immune Function?
Dr. Jaminet, on the other hand, argues that we do need some dextrose, based on his belief that the glucose from certain starchy foods is necessary for mucus production, preservation of the intestinal barrier, and immune function (about 80 percent of which originates in your gut).
According to Jaminet:
“It is possible in very low-carb diets, especially if protein intake is limited, to significantly reduce mucus production and impair the integrity of the gut mucosa and barrier.”
But, it’s also important to realize that both starches and sugars feed pathogens, and fructose malabsorption is quite common in bowel diseases. Fiber-rich, starchy foods also tend to be problematic for those with bowel disorders. Dr. Jaminet often recommends dextrose or rice syrup for those with bowel disorders. But there’s really no one universally safe prescription due to the diversity of pathogens, and he recognizes this as well.
According to Dr. Jaminet:
“Zero-carb diets are potentially problematic due to glucose deficiency or ketosis that favors certain pathogens; and for any given carb source, there is a pathogen that can flourish on it.”
The GAPS Diet
Another diet similar to Drs. Jaminet and Rosedale’s is the GAPS diet, created by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. According to Dr. Jaminet, some people have reported that their health improved once they added his “safe starches” (potatoes and rice) to their GAPS diet (which is specifically geared toward healing your gut and reestablishing proper balance of gut flora).
According to Dr. Jaminet:
“GAPS came up in my talk in response to a question someone asked. I had recently had two people on GAPS diets report that when they added starches, in line with our recommendations, their health improved and they were able to clear lingering gut problems, including fungal infections.
Of course I have no idea how faithfully they were following Dr Campbell-McBride’s recommendations; but I think their cases illustrate the points you make in your final two paragraphs. Every pathology is unique, and diets have to be tailored to individual needs,” he says
“I have the utmost respect for Dr Campbell-McBride and I am well aware of the many people her diet has helped. I hope no one thinks that I was in any way denigrating her diet or her very valuable work. I was able to attend part of her talk at Wise Traditions and thought it was the most valuable talk I saw at the conference.”
It seems that the evidence is quite clear that chronically raising your blood glucose will raise your insulin and leptin, which in turn will increase insulin and leptin resistance. And avoiding insulin and leptin resistance is perhaps the single most important factor if you seek optimal health and longevity.
That said, the degree to which you choose to reduce sugar and carbs however is, ultimately, up to you. And certain individual biochemical differences can make one diet more beneficial for you than others. The key point is to be aware that consuming sugar, grains and starches will promote insulin resistance to some degree or other, depending on the amount you consume.
If you are looking for an eating plan based on solid science I would strongly recommend Dr. Jaminet’s book Perfect Health Diet. Your goal will be to have 50-70 percent of your diet as healthy fat, which will radically reduce your carbohydrate intake. Most people will likely notice massive improvement in their health by following this approach as they are presently consuming FAR more grain and bean carbohydrates in their diet, and any reduction will be a step in the right direction.
But, if you are seeking to take it to the next level, then give Dr. Rosedale’s suggestions and try to eliminate nearly all non-fiber carbs. This can be very challenging to implement but may provide outstanding results.
Whatever diet choices you make, please remember to ALWAYS listen to your body as it will give you feedback if what you are doing is right for your unique biochemistry and genetics. So listen to that feedback and adjust your program accordingly.
That said, I encourage you to review the latest installment in Dr. Rosedale’s and Dr. Jaminet’s discussion. It is very long, but if you’re looking for more in-depth information, their discussion may be of great interest to you.