12 January - 20 June 2016

Food ingredient that makes you feel fuller

17 December 2014

An ingredient has been developed by scientists that could be added to food to make them more filling. This first-in-human study, conducted by researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow, found that the ingredient (containing propionate) is effective at preventing weight gain in overweight volunteers.  Propionate is produced naturally when dietary fibre is fermented by microbes in the gut. However, the new ingredient, called inulin-propionate ester (IPE), provides much larger quantities than people can acquire with a normal diet.  

The researchers speculated that colonic delivery of propionate would reduce energy intake and weight gain in overweight humans.  The long-term effects of inulin-propionate ester on weight gain were subsequently assessed in a randomized, controlled 24-week study involving 60 overweight adults.  The study involving the 60 overweight adults involved half of the volunteers being given IPE as a powder to add to their food and half given inulin.  One out of the 25 volunteers given IPE who completed the study gained more than three per cent of their body weight, compared with six out of 24 given inulin.  None of the IPE group gained more than five per cent of their body weight, compared with 4 in the inulin group.  After 24 weeks, the IPE group also had less fat in their abdomens and livers compared with the inulin group.  

The researchers note that the ingredient would need to be eaten regularly to have an effect, and they are exploring what kinds of food it could be added to, such as bread or fruit smoothies.  In summary, these studies provide the first direct evidence that colonic propionate can acutely reduce energy intake and prevent long-term weight gain in humans.

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