Are “Starchy” foods making you Fat?

Well, Maybe…

Recent research has shown that populations who have historically had high-starch diets have developed more copies of the gene known as “Amylase” which helps to break down starchy foods.

What does that mean to you?  It means that if you have more copies of this gene you are going to a) absorb more calories from starchy foods b) feel hungry more quickly and so want to eat more and c) have a higher spike in blood glucose levels making you want to eat more because our bodies “enjoy” high levels of glucose because we feel we have more energy.  So, it would make sense that people with higher copies of the gene responsible for Amylase would be more likely to be obese if they eat a diet high in “starchy” foods.

But wait, not all starchy foods are created equal!

Sweet potatoes, lentils, barley, rye bread, whole wheat pasta among others are Low Glycemic Index.  (Range: 0-100) This means that they are broken down more slowly than other “starchy” foods and so keep you fuller longer and don’t cause a spike in your blood sugar so that you don’t feel hungry as quickly as you do when you eat High Glycemic Index foods.

So, these foods are ‘safer’ than foods that have a high glycemic index (white rice, white bread, potato chips etc.)  Also, many High GI foods are also high in fat (french fries, potato chips…) meaning that overall, they contain more calories per gram of food and so you  consume more calories on average when you eat these foods.

If you have higher copies of the Amylase gene you will digest even Low GI foods more quickly than someone with fewer copies (I know… lucky dogs!) but these foods will still keep you fuller longer and keep your blood sugar more stable than High GI foods.

So… Are “Starchy” foods making YOU Fat?  

Maybe – if your ancestors at a lot of starchy foods and you inherited a more copies of the Amylase gene and have a diet high in High Glycemic Index foods (and high in fat) they could, indeed, be making you Fat!



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  1. #1 by ramblinann on January 29, 2012 - 11:37 pm

    Great post. I was always thin and never thought about carbs or what I ate. Then I hit 40 and everything counted. Being half Italian and half Irish I would say my ancestors ate a lot of pasta and potatoes. It gives me a bit of explanation why I crave sugar. The diet I am trying to follow is showing me how much of a habit the starchy foods became. I didn’t believe it before, but I do now. They helped to make me fat.

    • #2 by Fitness PhoenixX on January 29, 2012 - 11:44 pm

      Thanks! I would say that is a safe bet about your ancestors! That results of that research were not my favorite (I do love carbs and I have an Irish, English and German heritage..) But, it does give me more insight into my specific nutritional needs. Glad it helped & thanks for reading!

  2. #3 by char on February 5, 2012 - 1:55 am

    Very interesting! I wish I was the lucky person that could digest carbs faster. I would be a happy camper then…because Carbs and Me…we’re like peas and carrots (except yummier).

    • #4 by Fitness PhoenixX on February 5, 2012 - 12:47 pm

      lol I thought it was interesting. My mom kept telling me that in order to lose weight she just couldn’t eat ANY carbs. I thought, “that’s bogus…” and went to do some research. This is what I found. Bummer. She’s (kind of) right. Except! – I got her started w/ a program called “Rockin’ Body” (It’s a beginner’s program and was (and still is) on sale for only $20.) She hasn’t changed her diet much and has already lost some weight and is feeling better (has been doing it about a month.) So, she CAN still lose weight without avoiding carbs altogether – but she probably would have even better results if she reduces her intake & eats small amounts of lower GI carbs.

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