Exclusive Interview with Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw®

Durk Pearson & Sandy Shaw's
21st Century Weight Loss Program

How the use of resistant starch and erythritol can promote weight loss by lowering the
glycemic index of many foods and avoiding many of sugar's negative consequences

Starch foods can be more filling and a lot less fattening.

You don't have to give up a sweet tooth!

— Durk and Sandy

First appeared in the January 2007 issue

Glycemic Control: Part 2 of 2

Last month, Durk and Sandy explained how the use of naturally beta-glucan-rich barley can help promote weight loss by lowering the glycemic index of many foods. This month, they add to their strategy for glycemic control by introducing two new glycemic-control foods: one a high-resistant starch and the other a low-calorie natural sweetener.

The overall idea of Strategy #1 (Glycemic Control) of their weight loss program is to change the way you eat by substituting lower-glycemic-index foods for some of your food choices and adding glycemic-control foods to your diet. Doing so will enable you to reduce the negative effects of high-glycemic-index foods on your health, by lessening the glucose available to feed your fat cells, while simultaneously reducing your fat levels. You'll never need to go hungry or suffer the boredom of a bland diet—and you won't have to give up your sweet tooth!


LE: Now that we know all about your special barley products, what's next?

DURK: We're adding two more foods to our glycemic control system. One is a special resistant starch, and the other is the sugar alcohol erythritol. These foods are very useful to help control your glucose (blood sugar) and improve your insulin sensitivity—essential considerations if you want to reduce the amount of fat your body synthesizes.

Scientific studies have shown that consuming a meal high in resistant starch decreases peak glucose and insulin concentrations as well as the total amount of glucose absorbed. As we explained in last month's interview, these benefits can also be achieved by using a good soluble fiber, such as beta-glucan. The two barley products we introduced then—flour and quick flakes—are naturally rich in beta-glucan. This month we're adding two more barley products to the list: whole flakes and nuggets.

SANDY: Resistant starch works differently than barley, so it needs to be discussed separately. Because of its soluble fiber, barley impedes the diffusion of nutrients through the lumen of your gut (i.e., diffusion down the intestinal "pipeline," not through the intestinal walls).

DURK: Starch is a complex carbohydrate used by plants to store excess glucose. Resistant starch is a starch that resists digestion in the small intestine, where most ordinary starches are quickly broken down into glucose. Resistant starch proceeds to the large intestine, where some of it is fermented and where it causes an increase in the production of short-chain fatty acids, such as acetate, propionate, and butyrate. Much of it ends up (ends down?) being excreted, because it's not there long enough to be digested by intestinal bacteria.

SANDY: There are two basic types of starch: amylopectin and amylose. Most of the starch found in starchy vegetables (potatoes, e.g.) is of the amylopectin type. Uncooked, the plant's cellulose cell walls make it very resistant to digestion in the small intestine. Once cooked, however, it becomes completely—and rapidly—digestible, causing a spike in blood glucose levels.

Amylose, the more slowly digested type of starch, is found in most starchy foods, but usually at low levels, so you don't get much of it in your diet. Because of selective plant breeding, however, high-amylose foods are now available. Our special resistant starch is at least 60% resistant owing to its amylose content. That means that only 40% of it is digestible—and very slowly at that.

Resistant Starch Improves Insulin Sensitivity

DURK: There's a lot of exciting research on resistant starch. For example, a 2005 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that researchers gave 30 g/day of resistant starch to 10 healthy human subjects over a 4-week period and found that their insulin sensitivity increased by 33% compared to placebo.1 The glucose taken up by the forearm muscles rose, even with a lower insulin concentration; this demonstrated increased insulin sensitivity. Glucose passage into the forearm muscles was actually 44% higher than with placebo, representing an amazing increase in muscle receptivity to glucose.

© iStockphoto.com
SANDY: There are often differences in sensitivity to insulin in fat cells compared with muscle cells. But it's more desirable for glucose to be burned in muscles than converted to body fat. The big problem with ordinary starch is its rapid conversion to glucose, the consequence of which is that it feeds your fat tissues and gets stored as body fat. High levels of glucose in your bloodstream are dangerous and can cause deleterious side effects, both acute and chronic, so your body regulates glucose levels very tightly, with the excess being driven into fat cells.

DURK: Unfortunately, as you get older, your muscle cells become more resistant to the effects of insulin than your fat cells. Consequently, there's an increased partitioning of glucose into fat cells, where fatty acid synthase converts it into stored body fat. Less goes into the muscles, where it could be burned for energy. The loss of insulin sensitivity by muscles, as compared to fat tissue, is actually a solid marker of aging.

SANDY: In a 1999 paper in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, insulin sensitivity with resistant starch was improved rapidly.2 I was surprised, because I thought that restoring insulin sensitivity caused by obesity and a bad diet might take a year or more. A few weeks of regular vigorous exercise or a substantial weight loss—neither of which is easy—can improve insulin sensitivity.

By using resistant starch in a cereal-based breakfast, however, researchers were actually able to achieve a substantial improvement in insulin resistance by the next meal, just a few hours later. There was also a higher satiety score for those eating the resistant starch: they felt full and satisfied longer than the people who didn't eat it.

Resistant Starch Lowers Blood Glucose and Triglycerides

DURK: What about people who have type 2 diabetes—a major killer—or borderline diabetes, as in metabolic syndrome? After all, resistant starch helps prevent insulin resistance, the basic problem with type 2 diabetes. In 1998, a paper in Diabetes, Nutrition, & Metabolism found that a meal containing resistant starch lowered blood glucose levels in type 2 diabetics by 32% and triglyceride levels by 26%.3

SANDY: The same year, a study in the Journal of Nutrition reported that rats with induced diabetes that were fed a high-glycemic-index diet ended up with increased levels of fatty acid synthase.4 That's the final enzyme in the pathway that synthesizes fats from glucose—so they were making more fat. However, a low-glycemic-index diet with resistant starch reduced levels of fatty acid synthase, so they were making less fat, which is desirable for a diabetic. If you have high levels of fatty acid synthase, your body will make a lot of body fat, and you won't be able to lose weight.

DURK: Moreover, fatty acid synthase uses up your blood glucose, making you feel hungry due to low glucose. Three hours after eating a meal, your blood glucose can be lower than before eating, so you're hungry and you eat again. Your glucose and insulin increase, and your fatty acid synthase increases to get rid of the excess glucose. Then a few hours later, you're hungrier. You eat more, and more of that glucose ends up feeding your fat storage cells.

SANDY: It's a vicious cycle. By the way, fatty acid synthase expression was 68% higher in the rats on the high-glycemic-index diet compared to the low one—that's a huge difference!

A Little Resistant Starch Goes a Long Way

DURK: In a 2005 paper in Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, scientists examined the effects of 6 g of resistant starch on postprandial (after meal) blood glucose levels in normal humans and borderline diabetics.5 It significantly inhibited both glucose and insulin levels.

Six grams is remarkably little resistant starch—only about 2 teaspoons. Yet blood glucose was reduced by about 10%, and the postprandial insulin level was reduced by 20% after 1 hour and by 29% after 1.5 hours. The total amount of insulin released was reduced by 44% in the borderline diabetic group and by 17% in all subjects. So for anyone who's starting to lose blood sugar control and develop insulin resistance, and essentially for anyone who is overweight, this is really important.

Resistant Starch Promotes Lipid Oxidation While Decreasing Body Fat

DURK: A 2004 paper published in Nutrition and Metabolism found that resistant starch consumption promoted lipid oxidation.6 If you're fat, you want to burn up your fat—that's what lipid oxidation means. Ordinary starch promotes carbohydrate oxidation while increasing the synthesis of body fat from glucose, whereas resistant starch promotes lipid oxidation while decreasing body fat. That's remarkable!

To summarize, the researchers fed human subjects meals with resistant starch at levels of 0, 2.7, 5.4, and 10.7%. After the 5.4% meal, fat oxidation was 23% greater than after the regular meal, and this was optimal. For a meal containing 100 g (3 1/2 oz) of food, that's only 5.4 g of resistant starch, a mere 2 teaspoons. It's a very significant improvement from just a small change in your diet.

SANDY: A 2006 rat study in Nutrition Journal found that a diet high in resistant starch led to reduced fat-cell size compared to a diet high in digestible starch.7 Both the rate of lipogenesis (the production of new fat) and fat-cell size were also lower following resistant-starch meals versus digestible-starch meals. And it works in humans just as it works in rats, the researchers note.

DURK: In 1996, Lipids published a paper on an animal diet containing either 8% guar gum or 20% resistant starch.8 With a high-cholesterol diet, both the guar gum and the resistant starch were effective in lowering plasma cholesterol (about 40%) and triglycerides (about 36%).

While guar gum reduced cholesterol slightly more than resistant starch, it had a counteracting effect: it increased the expression of an enzyme called HMG-CoA reductase, which resistant starch did not do. HMG-CoA reductase is responsible for a crucial step in cholesterol biosynthesis; it's the enzyme that statins inhibit. So, unlike guar gum, resistant starch decreased cholesterol without increasing a cholesterol-synthesizing enzyme. If you want to keep your cholesterol levels down, more HMG-CoA reductase is undesirable, although it's not necessarily true that the lower its activity, the better.

Resistant Starch Protects the Colon

SANDY: There are other interesting effects of resistant starch. In a 1998 paper from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, resistant starch treatment resulted in a large increase (56%) of butyrate in the colon.9 Butyrate is a short-chain fatty acid produced by fermentation by microbes in the large intestine. It's particularly protective against colon cancer, and it provides a fuel source for colon cells.

Butyrate also induces apoptosis (programmed suicide) of genetically damaged cells. Talk about a health food! Your colon is constantly being damaged by the products of food digestion, so it's good to shed and dispose of old cells that line the colon. Butyrate helps do just that.

DURK: In a 2006 article in Diabetes Care, scientists asked whether the effects of beta-glucan-rich barley and resistant starch on glycemic variables are additive.10 We talked about this study in our last interview, but we didn't discuss resistant starch.

When the strain of barley we use in our glycemic control system was combined with resistant starch in breakfast muffins, the results were even better at lowering glycemic response than just barley or resistant starch alone. For barley alone, the total amount of glucose absorbed decreased by 17% compared with "placebo" muffins, and the total amount of insulin released decreased by 33%. For the resistant starch, these figures were 24% and 38%, respectively.

When barley and resistant starch were combined, however, the total amount of glucose absorbed decreased by almost twice as much—33%—and the total amount of insulin released was an amazing 59% lower.

SANDY: This is particularly important, because excess insulin is a risk factor, in and of itself, for atherosclerosis.

Erythritol: A Healthy Natural Sweetener

DURK: Now let's turn to our new sweetener, erythritol. Although there are a number of good artificial sweeteners, they lack the functional properties of sugars. You can bake a brownie with an artificial sweetener, but it won't be anything like a brownie. It will be noticeably "off," because sugar lends a lot to mouth feel, dissolvability, flavor release, and chewability—what bakers call fundamental functional properties.

SANDY: Artificial sweeteners don't taste like sugar, which is one reason people are looking for a natural sweetener. The sugar alcohols are very good in that respect. They can be used in baked goods, candies, and other sweets, and their functional properties are similar to those of sugars.

Although there are many sugar alcohols—such as sorbitol, mannitol, and xylitol—an undesirable trait they have in common is that they tend to cause diarrhea. Owing to gut intolerance, there are laxative effects from consuming relatively modest amounts of most sugar alcohols. But your gut is very tolerant of erythritol.

DURK: Many studies were done on the metabolic and toxicological properties of erythritol in order for it to gain approval as a sweetener. It was found that erythritol does not have laxative effects at the levels that people typically use in food. In fact, people can drink 20 grams of erythritol dissolved in water twice a day without a laxative effect—far higher than any other sugar alcohol. Erythritol is absorbed rapidly, and almost all of it is excreted unchanged in the urine.

The FDA's official figures are grossly false and misleading with regard to erythritol. They say that it has 4 calories per gram, the same as any carbohydrate. It's true that if you burn erythritol in a calorimeter, you get the same amount of heat produced as with 4 grams of sugar, 4 grams of barley flour, or, for that matter, 4 grams of sawdust! But when your body burns erythritol, it's a whole different story. You can't burn sawdust in your body, and for the most part, the same is true with erythritol: at least 90% of it is excreted in your urine.

SANDY: A small amount, maybe 1%, is excreted in the feces, and a very small amount gets fermented by bacteria in the large intestine. Most of it is excreted unchanged, and it has virtually no glucose-increasing or insulin-increasing effect. Experiments with type 2 diabetics at 40 g/day of erythritol found no adverse effects or increases in blood levels of glucose or insulin.

DURK: Of the sugar alcohols, erythritol has the lowest caloric value: it's been measured at 0.4 calorie/g or less—that is, it has one-tenth the caloric value of sugar. And it has the same functional properties, so your cookie will crunch instead of mush, and it won't be hard as a brick. If you use erythritol instead of sugar, it will look like a cookie, taste like a cookie, crunch like a cookie, and dissolve in your mouth like a cookie.

Erythritol Does Not Have Sugar's Drawbacks

SANDY: In a 2002 study on diabetic rats published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, erythritol was found to reduce serum levels of 5-hydroxymethylfurfural, a sugar metabolite that undergoes harmful reactions with proteins and is an indicator of oxidative stress.11 This is an example of a sugar metabolite that is much more dangerous than sugar itself. Chemically, such aldehyde metabolites act much like formaldehyde.

Also lowered by erythritol was a class of compounds called thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS), which are products of the peroxidation of lipids by free radicals. Lipid peroxidation is central to the aging process. So by reducing the effects of glucose metabolism and lipid peroxidation, erythritol reduces typical diabetic damage. In the study, it was added to the diet rather than substituted for something else.

DURK: Erythritol is not only a good replacement for sugar, but it actually provides some important beneficial effects. Therefore, if you have a sweet tooth and love chocolate, cake, cookies, and other desserts, you ought to substitute erythritol for sugar, as we do. You won't know the difference from the way desserts taste or feel in your mouth, nor will you suffer the drawbacks of sugar. You can regain that unalloyed joy of eating dessert again!

Reversing the Downside of the Agricultural Revolution

SANDY: A revolution in food is occurring because of growing knowledge about how foods, such as starch, are metabolized and processed in the body. By understanding the metabolic pathways, it's possible to alter foods so that they produce healthful results, and give you food you like to eat, without the worries.

DURK: In a way, we're reversing the downside of the Agricultural Revolution, which made possible an immense increase in human population density, because with agriculture you could produce far more caloric value, with less effort, than you could by hunting and gathering. Before that, starvation was commonplace.

The Agricultural Revolution laid the groundwork, however, for the current food-processing industry, which has fostered a great increase in the amount of fat-rich foods, a great increase in our food's average glycemic index, and a great decrease in the amount of soluble and insoluble fiber in our foods. Although our average lifespan has increased dramatically, we now live long enough to suffer the liabilities of this type of diet. Sadly, it has brought about many of the things that lead to age-related diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

Now we're starting to develop special agricultural products that return to what you would have gotten, long ago, through hunting and gathering: high levels of fiber rather than high levels of digestible starch.

It's All in the Recipes

LE: We want to encourage people to send in barley and resistant starch recipes.

SANDY: We'd sure like to see those recipes and try them ourselves!

DURK: Our special barley flour, quick flakes, whole flakes, and nuggets are high in beta-glucan and relatively high in resistant starch, but there are some use limitations. For example, if you want to make crunchy cookies and you use too much barley, you'll end up with chewy cookies. That's because beta-glucan is somewhat gummy. On the other hand, resistant starch promotes crispness and brittleness, which are fine for crunchy cookies.

SANDY: Your food not only tastes as good, but it actually keeps you feeling full longer. That's a tremendous effect. There's no willpower involved—when you feel full, you're full. And it's easy to use our special barley—you can add the flour to a drink that you have with your meal, or you can add it to a soup or sauce. You can add barley quick flakes to your breakfast cereal. The whole flakes can be used in place of rice in any dish where you use rice.

The resistant starch, however, needs to be put into something, such as brownies or cookies or cakes. It doesn't dissolve in water, so it must be added to various foods you cook. You can put it into casseroles and stews and all sorts of things where it's mixed in with other food and then cooked.

DURK: Essentially, resistant starch can replace anywhere from 50% to 100% of any starch you use in a recipe. You have to increase the amount of liquid you use in the recipe, though, because the resistant starch binds more water than ordinary starch.

There are many things that work over a short period of time, but if you continue taking them, they stop working. Are the wonderful effects of resistant starch sustainable, or is it a one-day wonder? The answer is: they are sustainable.


  1. Robertson MD, Bickerton AS, Dennis AL, Vidal H, Frayn KN. Insulin-sensitizing effects of dietary resistant starch and effects on skeletal muscle and adipose tissue metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr 2005;82(3):559-67.
  2. Liljeberg HG, Akerberg AK, Bjorck IM. Effect of the glycemic index and content of indigestible carbohydrates of cereal-based breakfast meals on glucose tolerance at lunch in healthy subjects. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69(4):647-55.
  3. Giacco et al. Metabolic effects of resistant starch in patients with type 2 diabetes. Diab Nutr Metab 1998;11:330-5.
  4. Kabir M, Rizkalla SW, Quignard-Boulange A, Guerre-Millo M, Boillot J, Ardouin B, Luo J, Slama G. A high glycemic index starch diet affects lipid storage-related enzymes in normal and to a lesser extent in diabetic rats. J Nutr 1998;128(11):1878-83.
  5. Yamada Y, Hosoya S, Nishimura S, Tanaka T, Kajimoto Y, Nishimura A, Kajimoto O. Effect of bread containing resistant starch on postprandial blood glucose levels in humans. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 2005;69(3):559-66.
  6. Higgins JA, Higbee DR, Donahoo WT, Brown IL, Bell ML, Bessesen DH. Resistant starch consumption promotes lipid oxidation. Nutr Metab (Lond) 2004;1(1):8.
  7. Higgins JA, Brown MA, Storlien LH. Consumption of resistant starch decreases postprandial lipogenesis in white adipose tissue of the rat. Nutr J 2006;5:25.
  8. Levrat MA, Moundras C, Younes H, Morand C, Demigne C, Remesy C. Effectiveness of resistant starch, compared to guar gum, in depressing plasma cholesterol and enhancing fecal steroid excretion. Lipids 1996;31(10):1069-75.
  9. Jenkins DJ, Vuksan V, Kendall CW, Wursch P, Jeffcoat R, Waring S, Mehling CC, Vidgen E, Augustin LS, Wong E. Physiological effects of resistant starches on fecal bulk, short chain fatty acids, blood lipids and glycemic index. J Am Coll Nutr 1998;17(6):609-16.
  10. Behall KM, Scholfield DJ, Hallfrisch JG, Liljeberg-Elmstahl HG. Consumption of both resistant starch and beta-glucan improves postprandial plasma glucose and insulin in women. Diabetes Care 2006;29(5):976-81.
  11. Yokozawa T, Kim HY, Cho EJ. Erythritol attenuates the diabetic oxidative stress through modulating glucose metabolism and lipid peroxidation in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. J Agric Food Chem 2002;50(19):5485-9.

A Glycemic Control Recipe
Using Barley Flour, Resistant Starch, and Erythritol

The old gold standard for desserts was that they tasted just like delicious, unhealthy desserts, but they weren’t bad for you. The 21st century has brought new, healthful ingredients, such as those in our Glycemic Control™ line. The new gold standard is that desserts taste just as good as delicious but unhealthy desserts, while also being good for your health!

Eat, enjoy, and be healthy!

— Durk and Sandy

Blueberry Gingerbread Cake
3/8 cup

3/8 cup

olive oil (or Durk & Sandy's High Oleic Sunflower Oil™)

1 1/2 cups

Glycemic Control Flour, plus a bit extra for dusting the baking pan

1 cup

Glycemic Control Erythritol

1/2 tsp


3 tbsp



egg, large

1 tsp

ginger, freshly grated (or 1/2 tsp dried ground)

1 tsp


1 cup

Glycemic Control Resistant Starch

1 tsp

cinnamon, ground

1/2 tsp

nutmeg, freshly grated (or store-bought ground)

1 1/2 tsp

baking soda

2 cups

fresh or canned (unsweetened, drained) blueberries

1 1/2 cups



Preparation is really quite simple. Once you have assembled the ingredients, it takes about 1 hour to make. Start by preheating your oven to 350ºF. Grease a 12 x 7-inch baking pan and dust with flour.

In the bowl of an electric mixer (ideally fitted with a whisk attachment), beat together the oil, erythritol, salt, and molasses until blended. Add the egg, ginger, and vanilla, and beat to blend. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, resistant starch, cinnamon, nutmeg, and baking soda. In a small bowl, combine 3 tbsp of this mixture with the blueberries, and toss to coat.

Add one-third of the remaining flour mixture to the oil mixture, and mix to blend. Add 1/2 cup of the buttermilk and mix to blend. Repeat this procedure with the flour and the buttermilk two more times. The batter will be fairly thick and sticky. Fold the blueberries gently into the blended mix.

Pour the batter into the baking pan. Bake in the center of the oven for about 30 minutes, until the center is firm and a cake tester (or toothpick) inserted into the center comes out dry.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool. Serve slightly warm. Makes about sixteen 1 3/4" x 3" pieces.

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