Resistant starch intake facilitates weight loss in humans by reshaping the gut microbiota: from a NEW research article

April 05, 2024 6 min read

Resistant starch intake facilitates weight loss in humans by reshaping the gut microbiota

Resistant starch is a hot topic. Emerging evidence shows it has many health benefits, including supporting digestion, controlling blood sugar, anti-inflammatory effects, aiding weight loss, and protecting against some diseases.

Humans get resistant starch from their diet, and it is categorized into five different types, each relating to its characteristics. Resistant starch is named as such because it resists digestion and cannot be broken down by human digestive enzymes. Instead, it is broken down by a process of fermentation by the gut microbiota.

Current research is being conducted to investigate how resistant starch can aid weight loss in the overweight and obese population. The global cost of obesity is set to hit $4.32tn per year by 2035[i].  

A study conducted by Li et al., (2024) entitled, ‘Resistant starch intake facilitates weight loss in humans by reshaping the gut microbiota, found some encouraging results. So, grab a cup of your favorite, kick back and join us as we review this study.

Brief overview of the link between obesity and the gut microbiome

Obesity and being overweight are fast becoming a global epidemic. The implications of this are vast and give way to a whole host of diseases, including diabetes and cardiovascular disease, the focus of the Li et al., (2024) study.

In recent years, studies have been emerging with results pointing to weight loss interventions being cited as ways to not only reduce body weight but also prevent the development of disease.

What does previous research say?

Padwal and Sharma (2010) observed that lifestyle changes alone weren’t enough. As weight loss interventions, lifestyle changes only really addressed halting weight gain rather than loss[ii].

A decade later, Aoun et al., (2020) conducted a review into how the gut microbiota can influence body weight, and the role of probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics in weight loss. They demonstrated that the gut microbiome could influence both energy metabolism and nutrient absorption, but that different weight loss interventions could change the gut microbiome composition.

Supplements such as probiotics, prebiotics and synbiotics could alter the mechanisms that stimulate food intake, resulting in weight loss. Overall, this suggests that the composition of the gut microbiota could influence weight[iii].  

Using previous studies, Li et al., (2024) went on the assumption that the inhabitants of the gut, such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus could control levels of pathogenic populations, strengthen the gut barrier and reduce the inflammatory response.

What was the purpose of the Li et al., (2024) study?

Because weight loss and weight maintenance rely on energy balance, many aspects of the human diet have been investigated into the role they play in weight loss or weight gain. Resistant starch is one such example which is attributed to having many important health benefits, including its promotion of weight loss[iv].

The study by Li et al., (2024) assessed if resistant starch as a dietary supplement could affect participants with excess weight. Earlier research has shown that resistant starch, a type of fermentable fibre that cannot be digested by humans and is instead, fermented by members of the gut microbiota, can reduce total body fat in mice. 

What type of study was conducted?

The study was a placebo-controlled, crossover-design intervention involving 37 participants with an average age of 33.43 ± 7.71 years. All participants had a BMI above 24 kg m−2, and/ or an increased weight circumference (85 cm or above in men, and, for women, 80 cm or above). 

A feeding trial took place over 20 weeks, with two 8-week interventions and a four-week washout period in the middle. Subjects were assigned to one of two groups, both groups were provided with a balanced consistent energy-providing diet, one with control starch (CS) but no resistant starch (RS), the other inclusive of 40 g of resistant starch. Analyses were then conducted using metagenomics and metabolomics to assess how RS had impacted the composition and function of the gut microbiota.

In addition, the researchers also studied antibiotic-treated mice who had received gut microbiomes from human donors already modulated by resistant starch supplementation. The purpose here was to assess the impact of resistant starch on host adiposity and glucose metabolism. Underlying mechanisms leading to metabolic advantages caused by the resistant starch-modified gut microbiome were also explored.

The Results

Here, we explore some of the key findings from the study.

The effect of resistant starch on weight loss and inflammation

The results of the study showed that resistant starch supplementation resulted in a mean weight loss of 2.8 kg and a reduction in waist circumference and fat mass. The consumption of resistant starch also caused an improved glucose tolerance, resulting in a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity.

Participants also had lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including serum tumor necrosis factor (TNFα) and interleukin (IL) - 1β following the resistant starch intervention. They also had an increased excretion of fecal lipids (fats). Because there was no real difference in consumption between the resistant starch and the control starch groups, these results suggest that resistant starch may lower the absorption of fat from the diet.  

The effect of resistant starch on gut microbiota composition

Generally, the resistant starch intervention resulted in significant changes to the composition of the gut microbiome, resulting in increases in beneficial species, such as Bifidobacterium adolescentis, Bifidobacterium longum,and Ruminococcus bromiiand decreases in others like Alistipes putredinis.

Interestingly, the bacterial genus Alistipeshas been recently discovered and isolated from clinical samples. It has been associated with various disease states, including depression and colorectal cancer[v].

The researchers suggested that R. bromiicould be an important species in responding to the resistant starch intervention while B. adolescentiscould be crucial in lowering obesity.

The effect of resistant starch on bile acids and metabolism

The alterations in the composition of the gut microbiota induced by the consumption of resistant starch were also associated with changes in bile acid profiles and serum metabolites, often associated with obesity.

Bile acids have an important role in host physiology through signalling metabolites. Secondary bile acids are important for the improvement of insulin sensitivity and relieving hepatic steatosis, like glycodesoxycholic acid.

In the study, there was a significant increase in glycodesoxycholic acid in the resistant starch group compared to the control starch intervention. Other increases included taurodeoxycholic acid. These increases were associated with four bacterial species, B.adolescentisB. longum, Dorea longicatena,and R. bromii.The results suggest that the increased production of secondary bile acids, influenced by the resistant starch-enriched gut microbiota, could reduce obesity and insulin resistance.

Furthermore, serum metabolites such as carnitine and methionine, often associated with obesity, decreased after the resistant starch intervention.

The effect of resistant starch in mouse models

In the mouse models, fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT) human donor gut microbiota treated with resistant starch, displayed similar results to the human intervention. Overall, the transplantation of a resistant starch-modulate microbiome resulted in:

  • Lowered body weight
  • Reduced fat mass
  • Improved glucose metabolism

Furthermore, a resistant starch-modulated microbiome also improved systemic inflammation, resulting in increased levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-10. The mice who received FMT from resistant starch-treated gut microbiomes also exhibited a restoration in their gut barrier, resulting in a reduction in circulating lipopolysaccharide (LPS) levels.

 The link between resistant starch, B. adolescentisand weight loss

The study also assessed whether the effects of resistant starch on weight loss and metabolic health were dependent on the gut microbiota. To test this, male germ-free mice were fed a 35% carbohydrate diet for 10 weeks while being treated with a placebo or B. adolescentis for eight weeks.

When mice were fed resistant starch alongside B. adolescentis, the mice showed a significant reduction in body weight and fat mass, they also had improved glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity, when compared to mice who were not fed the probiotic bacteria. 

Like the human study, the presence of B. adolescentisalso reduced gut permeability. Therefore, highlighting that the gut microbiota plays a critical role in the facilitation of weight loss by resistant starch.


Overall, the study by Li et al., (2014) demonstrated that resistant starch can induce weight loss by increasing the abundance of B. adolescentis.Together, this prebiotic fibre and probiotic bacteria strain initiate significant improvements in body weight, insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic parameters.

Are you interested in increasing your resistant starch intake, while at the same time modulating your gut microbiome to yield metabolic results? Then, you need to check out our next-generation probiotic supplement, Akkermansia muciniphila, expertly combined with human milk oligosaccharides and resistant starch, for a more robust intestinal barrier and healthier metabolism.

Written byLeanne Edermaniger, M.Sc. Leanne is a professional science writer who specializes in human health and enjoys writing about all things related to the gut microbiome.   


[i] Mahase E. Global cost of overweight and obesity will hit $4.32TN A year by 2035, report warns. BMJ. 2023 Mar 3; doi:10.1136/bmj.p523

[ii] Padwal RS, Sharma AM. Prevention of cardiovascular disease: obesity, diabetes and the metabolic syndrome. Can J Cardiol. 2010 Aug-Sep;26 Suppl C(Suppl C):18C-20C. doi: 10.1016/s0828-282x(10)71077-1. PMID: 20847987; PMCID: PMC2949982.

[iii] Aoun A, Darwish F, Hamod N. The Influence of the Gut Microbiome on Obesity in Adults and the Role of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics for Weight Loss. Prev Nutr Food Sci. 2020 Jun 30;25(2):113-123. doi: 10.3746/pnf.2020.25.2.113. PMID: 32676461; PMCID: PMC7333005.

[iv] Higgins JA. Resistant starch and energy balance: impact on weight loss and maintenance. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(9):1158-66. doi: 10.1080/10408398.2011.629352. PMID: 24499148; PMCID: PMC4220782.

[v] Parker BJ, Wearsch PA, Veloo ACM, Rodriguez-Palacios A. The Genus Alistipes: Gut Bacteria With Emerging Implications to Inflammation, Cancer, and Mental Health. Front Immunol. 2020 Jun 9;11:906. doi: 10.3389/fimmu.2020.00906. PMID: 32582143; PMCID: PMC7296073.

1 Response


April 07, 2024

Can you please advise who funded the study?

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