Friday, October 30, 2009

The Starch Blocker Diet

Offers Hope For Those Who Can't Give Up Comfort Foods

The biggest news in weight management this year is the use of starch-blocking supplements. The introduction of this approach was heralded in the important new book, The Starch Blocker Diet, released this spring by HarperCollins publishers.

The Starch Blocker Diet, by Steven Rosenblatt, M.D., Ph.D., and veteran health science author Cameron Stauth, describes an entirely new approach to weight control. In this approach, dieters take nonprescription starch blockers in order to neutralize the calories from the starchy foods they eat.

"This diet is truly revolutionary," notes Dr. Rosenblatt, one of America's most prominent physicians practicing integrative medicine. "It's the first approach that doesn't put the entire onus for success upon the patient. For once, science is doing the heavy lifting, so to speak, rather than the patients."

The starch blocking ingredient mentioned prominently in the book is Phase 2, which can now be found in a variety of weight loss products available in health food stores. A partial protein extracted from white kidney beans, Phase 2 selectively bonds with the body's starch-digesting enzyme, amylase. For approximately one hour the powerful ingredient puts the amylase in a biochemical "headlock," which prevents the amylase from bonding with starch and digesting it. Therefore, any starch that is eaten during that hour passes through the digestive system in whole-molecule form, undigested, in much the same way that the indigestible fiber from bran does. There are no significant side-effects, but there is a huge benefit in caloric reduction. Starch comprises approximately one-fourth to one-third of the average person's diet, so elimination of starch calories automatically results in the elimination of about one-fourth to one-third of all normal caloric intake.

Because Phase 2 neutralizes only starch, it doesn't stop the digestion and assimilation of all the other nutrients in starchy foods. The vitamins, minerals, enzymes and proteins in starchy foods, such as grains or vegetables, are all absorbed.

The biochemical action of the ingredient is rarely noticed by the people who take it. Less than one percent of those using Phase 2 experience minor gas or bloating and this typically ceases within about 24 hours, as the body adjusts to its new digestive pattern.

"The beauty of this approach," says Cameron Stauth, who was also coauthor of the international bestseller, Brain Longevity, "is that it respects the power of the natural human desire to eat, and does not try to subvert, alter, or deny this urge. Therefore, this is the first truly realistic weight management program--the only one that deals with people the way they are instead of the way they should be."

The Starch Blocker Diet, available now at most bookstores, states that there are five major factors that set this diet apart.

(1) This is the first nondenial diet. People can actually eat even more calories than previously because many of these calories will not be absorbed.

(2) This is the first no-hunger weight program. Abdominal fullness, caused by calorie-neutralized starchy foods, causes the neurological "stretch receptors" in the stomach to turn off hunger. In addition, insulin stability, achieved by blocking starch calories, stops blood sugar swings, which also helps prevent hunger.

(3) This is the first weight program that safely directs the body to burn stored fat. Unlike low-calorie diets, it doesn't rely upon high-fat foods, which can hurt health. Unlike low-fat diets, it doesn't require a high intake of carbohydrates, which disrupts insulin stability.

Instead, the starch blocker diet makes exercise burn body fat more efficiently by reducing stored carbohydrates in the muscles and liver, which the body must deplete before it can begin to burn fat.

(4) This is the first weight management approach that appears capable of relieving complications from diabetes. The diet has been clinically shown to arrest some of the symptoms of diabetes and it also controls the precursor conditions of diabetes, including hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia and Syndrome X.

(5) This is the first weight program that has neither physical nor psychological side effects. It doesn't employ general stimulants, metabolic stimulants or appetite suppressants. It doesn't raise cholesterol, as do some low-carb, high-fat diets. It doesn't destabilize insulin levels, as do some low-fat, high-carb diets. It doesn't create a psychological sense of deprivation caused by denial. In fact, it actually improves mood chemistry by stopping the blood sugar and hormonal fluctuations that cause mood swings.

"When I go on TV shows to talk about the book," Stauth says, "the interviewers are usually just blown away. They can't believe how different this is from the other diets that they've investigated. A lot of them say, 'It sounds too good to be true.' But it is all true, of course, as the research so abundantly indicates."

Research on starch blockers began in 1973, when legendary billionaire Howard Hughes spotted an article in an obscure scientific journal about an experiment in which a group of mice, for unknown reasons, began losing weight and even starving to death while being fed a seemingly nutritious diet--high in white kidney beans. The article speculated that perhaps some form of "antinutrient" had caused the baffling starvation.

Hughes assigned a team of researchers at Miami's Howard Hughes Medical Institute to look into the mystery. By 1982 they had isolated the specific partial-protein in white kidney beans that blocks starch digestion.

Some of the people who were researching starch blockers rushed them to market in 1982 and they quickly became a weight loss fad. However, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that there had not yet been enough research to support a claim for human weight loss so the FDA prohibited starch blockers from being marketed for weight loss. When retailers could no longer sell them for weight management, interest in them waned.

However, researchers at Mayo Clinic remained fascinated by starch blockers, particularly as an anti-diabetes substance. For the next 15 years, Mayo Clinic continued to research starch blockers, completing 13 studies that were all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals including The New England Journal of Medicine.

Over approximately the same time period other institutions also researched starch blockers, including the University of California at San Diego, the University of Illinois and universities in Germany, France, Scotland and Japan. The interest in Japan was particularly keen, resulting in 11 separate studies between 1992 and 2001.

Between 1980 and 2003 a total of 42 studies were completed by researchers in America and abroad. Virtually all of the studies had extremely positive, promising outcomes.

Even as late as the mid-1990s, however, no institution had developed a refinement process that could deliver a highly potent version of starch blockers at a price most people could afford. This problem was eventually solved though, by researchers working on behalf of Pharmachem Laboratories of New Jersey, one of the country's largest producers of bulk supplement products.

By 2000, Pharmachem researchers were satisfied with their formula. Pharmachem project director Mitchell Skop later remarked, "What we had produced was so different from the original formulas that we call it 'Phase 2'." The new ingredient was markedly stronger than the Mayo Clinic's substance. It was more concentrated, more stable in the gastrointestinal tract and was completely free of impurities.

Skop authorized an aggressive program of testing Phase 2 for weight loss in humans. The results were significant and conclusive.

Studies at the University of Scranton proved that Phase 2 reduced activity of the starch-digesting enzyme amylase by an average of 66 percent.

The most impressive study to date though, was performed by Jay Udani, M.D., director of the Integrative Medicine Program at Northridge Hospital, a U.C.L.A. affiliate. In Dr. Udani's study, patients on Phase 2 lost 230 percent more weight than patients on placebo, and lost 40 percent more in waist measurements than the patients in the control group. The Phase 2 group also had a 370 percent better reduction in triglycerides.

"Apparently," concluded Dr. Udani, "the starch blocker substance contributed to persistent and steady weight loss."

Over many years of bariatric research it has become apparent that will power alone is not a practical solution to the epidemic of obesity that has struck America. Weight management, for large scale populations, requires an approach that is scientifically sound, safe, powerful and compatible with long-term use. It has been exceptionally difficult to find a substance that provides this rare combination of factors.

Finally, though, there appears to be reason for great optimism.

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