The Honey and Resistant Starch experiments: Is There a Link?


In an exchange with Seth Roberts in the comments section of this post, I postulate a possible link between the honey experiment that Seth has been blogging about, and the Resistant Starch experiment.

The main outcome of the honey experiment has been the reporting of dramatically improved sleep. Sound familiar? That’s also one of the main effects people have reported while on Resistant Starch (potato starch).

Seth has apparently been following the RS experiment and made the connection himself. But he proposed a link that isn’t probable — that both honey and RS raise blood sugar, which leads to better sleep.

That’s based on a (understandable) misunderstanding of RS. I think many who aren’t following too closely are assuming that RS is a “slow carb” that is slowly digested by the body, like many other complex carbohydrates. That couldn’t be further from the truth. RS is, if I may invent a term, a “no carb.” It’s indigestible. Skips the whole digestion process, and instead goes straight to the colon, where the “other you” (your microbiota) feeds on it. And in fact, RS’s effect on blood sugar is quite the opposite — people report a lowering of fasting BG and post-meal BG. How so? The bacteria that RS feeds in turn produce short-chain fatty acids. Specifically, butyrate. Butyrate stabilizes blood sugar.

A more plausible link: Honey contains oligosaccharides, another kind of fermentable fiber which feeds bacteria that produce SCFAs, causing blood glucose to stabilize.

Honey’s effect on blood sugar, by feeding bacteria, has been documented here and here.

Oh, and what kind of oligosaccharides does honey contain? Short-chain fructooligosaccharides (scFOS)! As I’ve shown in the last couple of posts, scFOS has been shown to have complementary, different, and sometimes superior effects to Resistant Starch.

A useful test for the honey experimenters would be to measure their morning FBG after a night without honey, and then after a night with honey. If the results mirror the RS experimenters’ outcomes, then we might be onto something.


10 thoughts on “The Honey and Resistant Starch experiments: Is There a Link?

  1. My uneducated guess is that any sleep benefits (person dependent) of honey & RS are being achieved via different mechanisms.
    Honey raises blood sugar after ingestion (to varying degrees depending on the honey, variation likely due to different glucose/fructose ratios), whereas, as you have mentioned RS does not raise blood sugar.

    The FBG/honey experiment you mention would be interesting. Tho the ‘rawness’ of the honey may be a variable as well.

    • I agree that the immediate effects of honey will be different — honey will certainly raise blood sugar to some degree, which RS won’t. But I’m suggesting that perhaps honey has a delayed prebiotic effect, similar to RS, which creates the improved sleep effect. But I have no solid confidence in this, just postulating for now.

    • Yes — that your sleep will improve as you consume more prebiotics that feed SCFA/Butyrate-producing bacteria. Since prebiotics have differing levels of effectiveness, the effect is substrate-dependent. Resistant starch and scFOS seem to be the most potent prebiotics in adults (in babies, it’s Galacto-oligosaccharides, which are abundant in breast milk, and which feed bifidobacteria — the dominant bacterial strain in infants). I also imagine the effect would be dose dependent, with an upper limit.

      • Wow! So glad to have found this blog. Terrific stuff! Two questions: Can you have too much of a good thing? Too much probiotics, prebiotics, RS, etc. Or does the body just discard what it doesn’t use? My second question is about natural sweeteners that are not honey. Does coconut sap which is dried and turned into crystals have some of the same scFOS effect in the gut? Oh please say yes! I’ve given up almost all forms of white sugar most of the time and never any HFCS but it would be so great if I could have a little coconut sugar in my coffee and not feel guilty ;-).

      • Theoretically, yes I’m sure you can have too much of either. But that would probably manifest itself in digestive discomfort, so you’d know. Coconut sugar is pretty much all sucrose, not much undigested sugars in there. But if you are looking to add a sweetener to your coffee that is also a fermentable fiber, scFOS and inulin are quite sweet, though less so than sugar.

  2. How much scfos is found in honey? I have wild raw acacia honey from India. I eat about 310 grams/day. I have heard the fos content of honey is 3-4% and I am aiming to get about 8-12 grams of fos from honey per day. How much honey should I eat to promote flora growth and how many days should I eat it for? Thanks I would also like to supplement some agave or chicory Inulin and green banana flour.

  3. But what about the fact that many people don’t enjoy better and deeper sleep at all? For me, and for many others, whenever I take large amounts of RS, my entire night turns into a long, intense dream–and I assume, due to the increase in REM, that my deep sleep has decreased.

    Long, intense dreams seem to be a more common report than increase deep sleep and restfulness.

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