Purpose of review: Recent clinical trials and animal studies indicate that resistant starches may be beneficial therapeutic tools for the management of metabolic diseases. The purpose of this review is to summarize these findings and discuss the established and proposed mechanisms by which resistant starches exert their benefits. We also examine open questions regarding how resistant starches improve metabolism and propose future research directions for the field.
Recent findings: Data from both humans and animal models clearly support a role for resistant starches in improving a variety of metabolic features; however, discrepancies do exist regarding specific effects. Concomitant improvements in both insulin levels and body fat depots are often reported in rodents fed resistant starches, whereas resistant starch feeding in humans improves insulin sensitivity without having a major impact on fat mass. These differences could be explained by the coexistence of several mechanisms (both gut microbiota-dependent and gut microbiota-independent) underpinning the metabolic benefits of resistant starches.
Summary: Together, the studies presented in this review offer new insights into the potential pathways by which resistant starches enhance metabolic health, including modulation of the gut microbiota, gut peptides, circulating inflammatory mediators, innate immune cells, and the bile acid cycle.