Norfolk scientists invent new 'diet food'
Norfolk scientists have invented a food that could offer hope to millions of dieters. The discovery, by scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, could be of major significance to the food industry, which has been looking for products which will help people lose weight.
Norfolk scientists have invented a food that could offer hope to millions of dieters.
The discovery, by scientists at the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, could be of major significance to the food industry, which has been looking for products which will help people lose weight. It is the first time a mixture with these effects has been developed.
The mixture of olive oil, water and a stabiliser already used in the baking industry has been found to keep people feeling fuller for 12 hours after eating. Although it is likely to take five to 10 years to reach the shelves, scientists are excited by the findings.
Martin Wickham, from the IFR, said: 'This is very unique. This is the first time that we have seen such a dramatic effect from a model meal.
'It is a very important study, particularly because it has been done in humans and has been shown to have such a dramatic effect.'
The mixture has been developed by Dr Wickham and Richard Faulks at the Institute of Food Research and its effects tested by scientists at the University of Nottingham, who used an extra-fast type of MRI scanning to show the effects in the stomach.
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The three-year project has found that emulsions of olive oil and water - the same principle as a salad dressing - can be altered to affect how they react in the acid environment of the stomach. Scientists made two types of emulsion stabilised with different compounds commonly used in the food industry.
One used a kind of polysorbate surfactant called Tween 60, which is widely used in cakes and pastries, and the other used a polysorbate surfactant called Span 80. The two are chemically very similar, but Tween keeps the oil and water stable in the stomach, while Span allows it to break into a layer of water and a layer of oil.
The mixture was flavoured with coffee and given to 11 volunteers as a coffee milkshake-style drink. Their stomachs were scanned every hour to see how much remained. After one hour, there was twice as much volume in the stomachs of people who had drunk the stable mixture. This is because when the water separates, it leaves the stomach much more quickly, but when it stays mixed with the oil, it stays in the stomach for longer.
Dr Wickham said: 'If we can retain material in our stomachs for longer we tend to feel fuller. It is important to control obesity and keep weight down, and this is a more acceptable way of doing it than restricting your food intake on a diet. You would feel fuller so you don't want to eat, rather than starving yourself.'
Its first uses are likely to be in a drink, while it would take longer to get it ready for use in solid foods. Its potential uses are wide, because most processed food contain fat as an emulsion of tiny oil droplets.
And although some people might be suspicious of food created in a lab, Dr Wickham said there is nothing to fear. 'It is something very simple. It is all stuff you can buy from the supermarket. The surfactant is widely used in the baking industry.'
Luca Marciani from the University of Nottingham said: 'Our research proves it is possible to design oil-in-water emulsions with different behaviours in the gut to influence gastrointestinal physiology and, ultimately, satiety.'
The next step is a further project, being led by Richard Wilde from the IFR, which tries to slow down the digestion of fat in the emulsion.
The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, of which the IFR is a part, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition.