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  • #11521 Report Abuse

    Tapioca is one of the alternative starches being used in higher end kibbles. Its gluten free, non-GMO, and when properly processed, non-toxic. In order to make, and bind kibble you must use a certain amount of starch. Tapioca is a good choice in that it is nontoxic, gluten & lectin free.

    There is a lot of misinformation being disseminated about tapioca, so lets review the facts and set the record straight. There are no poisonings from properly processed tapioca flour. In fact, most poisonings occur in famine stricken areas where the starving individuals try to take short cuts in processing the raw cassava or manioc root. This is well documented. Tapioca has been safely consumed for thousands of years and is the main staple starch in African, Indonesian and South American diets. “500 million people rely on cassava as their main source of calories, among them subsistence farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa…”Richard Sayre, a professor of plant biology at Ohio State University

    “The Culprit in Cassava Toxicity: Cyanogens or Low Protein?
    by G. Padmaja

    The starchy roots of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) are already a staple for about 500 million people of tropical Africa, Asia, and Latin America, but countless others might also benefit from this food if it were not for the sensationalism that sometimes surrounds the crop’s potential toxicity.
    The cassava plant carries two cyanogenic glucosides, linamarin and lotaustralin, in its edible roots and leaves. The amounts of these potentially toxic compounds vary considerably, according to cultivar and growing conditions. “Sweet” varieties usually have such small amounts as to be innocuous, whereas “bitter” varieties have sufficiently high levels to require domestic processing to remove most of the toxins.

    In situations where famine or extreme poverty may force a population to eat poorly processed cassava in a diet that is also deficient in nutrients such as protein, the plant’s cyanogenic glucosides can lead to poisoning. A classic case was the infantile kwashiorkor epidemic in famine-stricken Biafra in 1968, but there have also been recent examples of spastic paraparesis, or konzo, in drought-stricken regions of Mozambique and Tanzania.

    Detoxifying cassava

    Farming populations who cultivate cassava have developed many methods of detoxifying cassava. Boiling and drying are sufficient to make low-cyanogen cultivars safe for consumption, but more rigorous procedures such as grating, fermenting, and sun-drying, are necessary to effectively remove cyanogens from cultivars of higher toxicity.

    The protein link

    Whenever a chronic disease has been linked to cassava consumption, the victims have also been found to suffer from protein deficiency, suggesting a relationship between the two.

    Protein is essential for all the body’s vital functions, and for eliminating certain dietary toxins. With the help of the enzyme rhodanese, the human body detoxifies cyanide by forming thiocyanate. When the body is regularly exposed to cassava cyanogens, the increased synthesis of rhodanese makes extra demands on the body’s reserves of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. To detoxify 1.0 mg hydrocyanic acid (HCN), the body also needs a daily supply of about 1.2 mg of dietary sulfur (S) from S- containing amino acids (SAA). If the demand for rhodanese and SAA is prolonged, as in the regular consumption of cassava, and the diet is inadequate, the synthesis of many proteins vital for bodily functions may be impaired, leading to the development of protein deficiency diseases.

    Cassava – low protein source

    Cyanogens alone cannot be blamed for toxicity because other cyanogenic crops, such as sorghum and Lathyrus bean, which are widely used as food, cause few toxicity problems. But the protein contents of these two crops (11.0% and 18.7%, respectively) are higher.

    Many cassava products contain very low amounts of cyanogens, which can be efficiently eliminated by the body, if the protein intake is adequate. Cassava roots, being bulky and rich in carbohydrates, free dietary proteins from having to meet the body’s energy needs, thus allowing them to be used more efficiently. However, the level of protein in cassava lags far behind the levels found in rice, wheat, and tuber crops (Figure 1). An adult consuming 1 kg of cassava has to ingest 52 g of protein from other sources to obtain the U.S. recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 65 g protein per adult. In contrast, 1 kg of wheat supplies 121 g of protein and rice, 61 to 64 g of protein.

    If protein intake is more than adequate for both general metabolic requirements and cyanide elimination, toxic effects are lessened or even eliminated, even if cassava is improperly processed. (Fatal poisoning can result from ingestion of large amounts of unprocessed or poorly processed high-cyanogen cassava.) Hence, the lack of protein in cassava roots is probably responsible for most non-fatal cases of cyanide poisoning associated with cassava.”
    Notice it was cassava and not tapioca, that caused the poisonings. Notice also that they weren’t in the US, but in impoverished areas, in developing nations, and there was a lack of sufficient dietary protein.

    Nutritional profile of cassava
    Cassava root is essentially a carbohydrate source.[27] Its composition shows 60–65 percent moisture, 20–31 percent carbohydrate, 1–2 percent crude protein and a comparatively low content of vitamins and minerals. However, the roots are rich in calcium and vitamin C and contain a nutritionally significant quantity of thiamine, riboflavin and nicotinic acid. Cassava starch contains 70 percent amylopectin and 20 percent amylose. Cooked cassava starch has a digestibility of over 75 percent.
    Cassava root is a poor source of protein. Despite the very low quantity, the quality of cassava root protein is fairly good in terms of essential amino acids. Methionine, cysteine and cystine are, however, limiting amino acids in cassava root.

    Aug 5, 2011 | By Kristi Wray

    Conventionally, tapioca, derived from the cassava plant, is best known as a creamy pudding dessert with little sustenance. However, in some in areas like Africa, Asia and South America, tapioca is known better for its nutritional benefits than as a sweet treat. When eaten raw or incorrectly prepared, the plant releases poisonous properties. Thus, tapioca must be prepared correctly to prevent harm and ensure safe eating.

    The cassava plant is a root vegetable and a healthy source of carbohydrates. In many countries, it serves as a main dish because of its high starch content. Even better, it is considered a healthy starch because it is low in cholesterol and unhealthy fats. Tapioca can be included in dietary plans to promote healthy weight gain.

    People suffering with Celiac disease or other conditions that restrict the use of gluten-based foods can use tapioca as an alternative to recipes that use wheat flour. Tapioca flour, which does not contain any gluten, is a healthier alternative to wheat flour. Both tapioca flour and tapioca starch can be used as a thickening agent in cream-based sauces and gravies.

    Calcium, phosphorous, potassium and magnesium can be found in tapioca in varying amounts. If you are preparing a more processed form of the root, like a pudding mix, you will receive a smaller amount of these minerals than if you were to consume tapioca starch or flour. Tapioca is also a good source of iron, and, in particular, dry tapioca pearls contain up to 13 percent of your daily value of iron. B-vitamins, including folic acid, which is extremely vital for pregnant women, are also found in tapioca.

    Over the years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has placed extreme importance on the consumption of dietary fiber on a daily basis for a healthier lifestyle. The cassava root has a significant amount of dietary fiber in its natural form. According to the USDA, foods high in dietary fiber can help lower cholesterol, decrease the rate of colon cancer, and lower the risk of diabetes and heart disease.” http://www.livestrong.com/article/509033-the-health-benefits-of-tapioca/

    So there you have it. A factual picture of tapioca starch, without the scare tactics.

    #11522 Report Abuse
    Mike P

    Thank You Toxi for this post.Very helpful and now I understand more about this ingredient.

    #11523 Report Abuse

    You’re welcome Mikey! I personally use tapioca as the binder in all my gluten free recipes. 🙂 If I can eat it, with my immune impairment, its obviously safe! 😉

    #11528 Report Abuse

    Thanks Toxed!! Good info, straight forward, and easy to understand.

    #11534 Report Abuse

    You’re welcome Patty! 🙂

    #11550 Report Abuse

    One of the disadvantages of Tapioca is it has a high glycemic load. It has an average rating of 83 on the glycemic index.

    There are many foods that can be used as a starch in dog foods that have a much lower glycemic load than Tapioca. Here are just a few examples: Green peas are 51, Lentils are 30, Chickpeas are 36 and sweet potatoes are about 50.

    If you have a diabetic dog or you are concerned about the glycemic load of your foods then Tapioca would not be your best choice.

    #11555 Report Abuse

    Hi Jack,
    Its a good thing tapioca is used minimally in high end kibbles then, – just as a binder. Not like the corn based kibbles, which are mostly high glycemic starches. Though it is interesting that there is research showing animal fat & protein mediates glucose spikes & that endocrine disrupting hormones have a greater impact than modest carbohydrate consumption.

    I ran a quick search and diabetics are allowed to eat some tapioca… It just has to be balanced.
    Here’s a quote from a diabetes support site. Granted its from a human type I site, but the research said that because there wasn’t much on dogs, it was acceptable to correlate human diabetes Type I information to dogs.

    “- Vegetables that should be consumed in limited quantities by diabetics are: High sugar vegetables and root vegetables like carrot, potato, beetroot, colocasia, sweet potato, yam, tapioca and other vegetables like artichoke, green plantain, tender jackfruit, broad beans, double beans, cluster beans.”

    So limited quantities, not none. I certainly wouldn’t feed any of my dogs any predominantly starch based diet, tapioca or not. They weren’t designed to eat starch, as a staple. I prefer to feed a balanced raw, according to Steve Brown’s book, and Dr. Becker & Beth Taylor’s book. I feed raw & kibble because I can’t count on my health being stable. Like today, I started out great, but had a bad crash at 2:00, recovered and had a major crash at 6:00. Luckily I got on top of that one and am recovering fairly well at the moment. So I picked the absolute best kibble I could, for my girls, because I know my husband. He’s not going to feed raw if I croak over. I want them to all go on with as minimum disruption as possible. I feel the percentages of carbs, including the tapioca, and their combined glycemic indexes as compared to the meat, fat, bone, ratios & the ratios of other ingredients of Brother’s Complete Fish formula is the best. I also like how it doesn’t have the toxins that I see in a number of other “high end” kibbles. And according to some research papers, those dietary toxins are being recognized as having a much greater influence on promoting diabetes Type I (the kind that dogs typically get), than previously thought. My2¢

    #11560 Report Abuse

    I’m sorry James. Just a typo probably, and my auto correct substituted Jack. It was not intentional.

    I didn’t do “a quick web search” on diabetes, as you assumed. I have a more holistic approach than you, not a limited one. I first started studying it 25 years ago. It is a very complex issue. I ran a quick search to see what some of the diabetic sites were currently saying about tapioca. My daughter has diabetes, and she eats carbs, including tapioca. So I checked, since I wouldn’t consider my daughter’s personal decisions an appropriate source on diabetes…

    I chose to discuss meat based proteins being a superior canine diet and a natural segue of that is why I feed Brother’s, when I prefer balanced raw. You are the one focusing on the fact I talked about Brother’s, more than you are paying attention to everything else I said. Your comments seemed to imply that ANY tapioca was bad, and therefore any dog food with tapioca is bad. I’m explaining that its not. And since this is still a dog food forum discussing dog food ingredients, and no dog food is tapioca based, you’re obviously objecting to a proportionally very small amount of tapioca being used. That begs the question, why get all het up about that tiny bit of tapioca when grain based dog foods have a whole lot higher net GL…?

    FYI I’m free to give my opinion of Brother’s Complete when ever I feel inclined.

    #11565 Report Abuse
    Hound Dog Mom

    Hi James –

    I think I take a slightly different approach to evaluating kibbles than some others. I feel that all binders have their pro’s and con’s and I don’t believe that any (grains, potatoes, tapioca, legumes) are species-appropriate for dogs. I’d rather pick a food based on overall meat/protein content rather than ruling out a food based on the binder used – because ideally there should only be a very small amount of the binder (not enough to significantly affect glycemic load) and different foods with different binders should be fed rotationally in order to mitigate the negative aspects of any one food. You need to remember that the amount of the binder used is most important. Just because a food contains a high glycemic ingredient (like tapioca or white potato) doesn’t necessarily mean the food itself is high-glycemic. For example, Orijen contains white potato but it is a a certified low glycemic food by the glycemic research institute because the amount of white potato included in the food is so small that it doesn’t have a significant affect on the overall glycemic load of the food. When I fed kibble I rotated through tapioca-based foods, potato based foods, legume-based foods and would even occasionally use a grain-inclusive food if the grains used weren’t too offensive (I don’t mind millet or quinoa on occasion) and the protein levels were high. Luckily now I make my own food and don’t have to add any binders.

    #11570 Report Abuse


    Thanks for such a comprehensive look at Cassava root to help dismiss some of the negative hype that’s been circulating lately. So allow me to add my 2 cents to the discussion.

    One of the things about Cassava that is often overlooked is that as much as 50% is in an insoluble form that feeds the good bacteria in the gut and doesn’t really contribute to the Glycemic index load in the blood stream. So it’s a carbohydrate that binds the meat and fat part of the formula while half of it is used to strengthen the immune system and feed the good bacteria in the gut to keep the system healthy. In effect one half the carbs in the cassava root are not really used by the regular system nor do they effect it directly.

    They are basically “encapsulated” so the main system doesn’t have access to them and delivered to a sub-system in the body – which is the bacterial colony in the gut – and this bacterial colony (which has 10X the number of cells than the entire rest of the body combined) is essential in maintaining the immune system and the healthy functioning of the rest of the system. Actually, if you were to replace the Cassava with some more meat it wouldn’t be nearly as healthy for the system as a whole. THe work that the Cassava does in maintaining gut health is far more beneficial than some additional amino acid sequences in extra protein.

    All carbohydrates are NOT created equal – some are actually very beneficial – even to a dog. Dogs may not have a “need” for carbohydrates but that doesn’t mean that certain carbs in proper quantities can’t be used judiciously to benefit the dog’s system. In fact even if I were to feed an all raw diet, knowing what I now know about Cassava root and gut biology, I would add it to the raw food. While many of us have a tendency to want to see life in black and white terms, me included, because it simplifies everything and reduces the complexity to manageable levels….it seems that life is actually mostly composed of shades of gray.

    This years Nobel prize in Physics went to 2 men who found a way to design an experiment that proved that one aspect of the Quantum world, which is the basis of our physical reality, is so strange that Einstein died convinced that what they just proved was absolutely impossible. I won’t go into it but what they proved to be quite real is 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times stranger than the idea that a certain carb source, in proper proportion, might actually be more beneficial to a dog than if it weren’t in the dogs diet. Just a little food for the open mind.

    #11572 Report Abuse
    Hound Dog Mom

    Can’t say I agree that adding tapioca to raw would be a good idea. I wouldn’t reduce the protein content of my dogs’ food, up the carb content and glycemic load to add pre-biotics when there are much more species-appropriate pre-biotics that can be added without altering the protein and carbohydrate content and glycemic load. Chicory root, burdock root, dandelion root and garlic are all pre-biotics. Many can be purchased in concentrated tinctures specifically for pets that add appreciable amounts of pre-biotics to the diet. I’ve used Prebiotic Plus herbal tincture from Animals’ Apawthecary before and I also add minced raw garlic 2 or 3 times a week. With kibble a starch is obviously necessary, so it’s great to use a starch that has some sort of benefit (such as the pre-biotics in tapioca) because you have to have it, but a raw diet gives the opportunity to completely eliminate starches and that (in my opinion) is the beauty of a raw diet and why I think dogs thrive so much more on raw than on kibble.

    #11776 Report Abuse

    I recently have been reading of the benefits of resistant starch. I noted that tapioca was not on any of the lists I came across reporting good sources for resistant starch (potato, beans. banana, grains). Looking further I found that tapioca is a base from which resistant starch is being made, specifically Actistar by Cargill. In other words tapioca is being modified in order to make it resistant. This then leads me to believe that unmodified tapioca is not high in resistant starch, otherwise why the need to modify it??? Hmmm….now my curiosity is piqued!

    So I started reading about tapioca in general and I didn’t find any mention of tapioca having a high proportion of resistant starch or having beneficial effects as a prebiotic. Instead I found it described as a rapidly digested starch.

    Next I hit pubmed and the few studies I found that evaluated the pre cecal digestion of tapioca reported pre cecal digestion of tapioca at 99%. In other word very little made it to the colon undigested. The only study I found in which a significant portion was presented to the colon unchanged was when raw tapioca was fed. But of course the tapioca in kibble has been cooked.

    So now I’m frustrated as I can not find one shred of evidence to support the idea that tapioca is nearly 50% resistant starch. Does anyone have any???

    #11849 Report Abuse

    I’m interested in hearing more about Aimee’s findings. I haven’t been able to find hard evidence that tapioca is one of the best dog food starches to be honest. I hope we don’t find out in 10 years that its one ingredient that should be avoided.

    #24186 Report Abuse

    I recently found a reference regarding the digestion of cassava starch ( tapioca) which was done in the dog. In an uncooked state (raw) 57.6% is digested before reaching the colon. In the cooked state ( as would be found in kibble) 97.4% of the cassava starch is digested before reaching the colon.

    Recueil de Medecine Veterinaire (Mai-Jun 1998)
    Foecal and ileal digestibility of diets rich in wheat or tapioca starch in the dog.
    Wolter, R. (Ecole Nationale Veterinaire d’Alfort, Maisons Alfort (France). Unite Alimentation Nutrition); Pereira do Socorro, E.; Houdre, C.

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