'Slimming bread' could become a reality if a new additive which can suppress the appetite is added to stable foods.
The ingredient, IPE (inulin-propionate ester) makes food more filling by stimulating the gut to release hormones that act on the brain. It contains propionate, a natural compound produced when dietary fibre is fermented by gut microbes.
In tests, overweight volunteers given IPE as a powder to add to their food were much less likely to pile on extra pounds than those not using the additive.
The IPE group also had less fat in their abdomens and livers.
Scientists are now investigating ways of incorporating IPE into common foods.
In one study, 20 volunteers were given either IPE or inulin, a dietary fibre, and allowed to eat as much as they liked from a buffet. Those given IPE ate 14% less on average and had higher levels of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood.
Next, 60 overweight individuals took part in a 24 week study in which half were given IPE and half inulin. Just one member of the IPE group gained the equivalent of more than 3% of body weight compared with six from the inulin group. None of those given IPE, but four of the volunteers taking dietary fibre, put on more than 5% of their body weight, the research published in the journal Gut showed.
The research was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council's (BBSRC) Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC), which aims to help the food industry develop health-enhancing products.