Mood, Happiness, Obesity, and Resistant Starch

An awful lot of obesity is attributable to emotional eating, whether performed in binge mode, or slowly and steadily. The habit of stuffing down emotions by inserting food into the mouth seems to qualify as a bona fide behavioral addiction.

Evidence mounts, pointing to the gut microbiome as an entity that influences emotions and behavior. When the wrong populations of bacteria get out of control they can stir up depression and anxiety disorders. What is going on down there?

Many connections have been observed between behavioral changes, and the beneficial metabolites generated by bacteria who feed on resistant starches. Fitness expert Mark Sisson suggests that resistant starch can be thought of as a special type of prebiotic which, even though we ourselves don’t digest it by enzymatic breakdown, nourishes the microbiota and benefits us indirectly.

Transported through the small intestine into the colon, resistant starch is welcomed by the resident bugs that metabolize it into short chain fatty acids like butyrate. explains the details:

The cells that consume butyrate are T reg or T cells. T cells provide a barrier of defense against pathogens and help strengthen the immune system. In addition to these claims, T cell regeneration is expected to lower the risk of colon cancer, the 4th most common form of cancer to cause death internationally. Any abundance of butyrate, up to a certain point, that isn’t consumed by the T cells moves into the bloodstream and benefits insulin levels and liver function.

One effect of consuming resistant starch is reduced intestinal permeability, which indirectly prevents obesity. Why? Because the inelegantly named “leaky gut syndrome” aggravates such auto-immune diseases as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. People who suffer from these chronic illnesses are unhappy, and often seek to improve their moods by comfort eating. A less permeable gut lining alleviates these painful auto-immune conditions, which increases happiness, and lessens the likelihood of comfort eating.

Beneficial microbes at work

Researchers have shown in the laboratory that resistant starch increases satiety — which generally leads to decreased eating. They also harbor a strong suspicion that giving the microbiota resistant starch promotes the production of the mood stabilizer serotonin, soothing anxiety and alleviating the symptoms of stress. It also appears to boost the production of melatonin, with various beneficial effects.

The American Psychological Association, which knows something about mental health, says…

[…] gut bacteria produce an array of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. In fact, 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria…

Resistant starch does not accomplish these desirable results alone, but through acting in concert with other prebiotics, including fish oil, which reduces inflammation and promotes the growth of bacteria that produce butyrate and other short chained fatty acids.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “The Definitive Guide to Resistant Starch,”, 03/26/14
Source: “Resistant starch: Healthy or Not?,”, undated
Source: “The gut microbiome: how does it affect our health?,” MedicalNewsToday, 03/11/15
Source: “Fish oil may be important to altering the microbiome, reducing anxiety,”, 10/06/15
Photo via Visualhunt

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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