Modern science continues to discover new information about how prehistoric peoples once lived and thrived before the age of supplements and superfoods. Investigations into their diet — how and what nourished our ancestors — provide important clues into health and wellness today, identifying gaps and divergences from their traditional ways. These insights are incredibly valuable in light of the many chronic conditions attributed to the modern diet, especially as we improve our understanding of how gut health plays a major role in everything from immunity, to memory and depression.
The potential benefits of these ancient diets have spurred a plethora of “paleo” diets that emphasize lean meats, fish, and fruits and vegetables over grains, legumes, and other starch-rich foods that emerged with the advent of agriculture. It’s a poetic, yet incomplete, story that leaves out crucial details.
The full story is that starchy foods have been in the Homo sapiens diet for over one hundred thousand years. The cousin of modern humans, Neanderthals, supplemented their allegedly meat-heavy meals with starchy plants more than 125,000 years ago.1 Other evidence has emerged that grinding starchy grains from wild plants, possibly into flour, was a common practice of our direct human ancestors at least 30,000 years ago.2 In fact, scientists believe the consumption of starchy roots is likely to have been a key innovation in the human diet dating back 170,000 years.3
The main difference today is that the factors frequently driving the formulation process for many starchy food products are focused primarily upon improving taste, appearance and texture. That can be problematic for at least two reasons. First, there are a number of studies that suggest eating a diet high in refined starches is linked to a higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.4 Second, highly refined starches have been stripped of nearly all their nutrients and fiber, starving the bacteria in the microbiome of one of its favorite foods — resistant starch.
The modern diet has a resistant starch deficiency problem
Historically, people consumed 30 to 50 grams per day of resistant starch.5 While total dietary fiber intake recommendations exist, there is no recommended daily allowance for resistant starch in the United States. Australia is currently reviewing their Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for dietary fiber, noting the current NRVs should be revised beyond total fiber intake to reflect dietary targets for resistant starch. Research suggests resistant starch intake of approximately 20 grams per day to specifically support bowel related benefits.6
It turns out that consumers in Western countries like the U.S. and Australia are falling far short of that suggested dietary intake goal.
In a first-of-its-kind analysis, U.S. researchers found that most Americans only get about 2 grams of resistant starch per 1,000 calories.7 Based on a 2,000-calorie diet, that means most people only consume about 4 grams of resistant starch per day — approximately 20% of the recommended amount of 20 grams. Based on those statistics, one would need to consume as much as 10,000 calories a day to reach healthy resistant starch levels. That’s fine if you’re an Olympic swimmer burning through 1,000 calories per hour, but unrealistic for most people.
Meanwhile, many of those ordinary people are experiencing some level of gut health distress. Globally, about 40% of people experience gastrointestinal (GI) disorders such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and two-thirds of these people will have chronic, fluctuating symptoms.8 In the U.S. alone, more than 72% of consumers reported having GI discomfort in the last year.9 About a quarter of people in the U.S. also reported an increase in digestive health concerns since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and more than half attribute the problem to stress.10 There must be a better, stress-free way to get a healthy dose of resistant starch that doesn’t require eating like an elite athlete. Supplementation is one attractive alternative, and so is eating functional foods that are fortified with resistant starch.
Solnul™ is an unmodified, native starch granule, Resistant Starch Type 2 (RS2) ingredient that is resistant to digestive enzymes. It has the highest concentration of RS2 (>60%) on the market, which makes it the most efficient way to consume a daily dose of resistant starch and move the needle towards better global nutrition.