Scientists have developed a groundbreaking new food ingredient that can make you feel fuller.
Experts say the “exciting” breakthrough could help combat Britain’s spiralling obesity crisis.
Almost two in in three adults in the UK are either overweight or obese.
But in the first tests on humans, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found the ingredient stops weight gain in fat volunteers.
It contains propionate, which stimulates the gut to release hormones that act on the brain to reduce hunger.
Propionate is produced naturally when dietary fibre is processed in the gut, but the new ingredient, called inulin-propionate ester (IPE), offers much bigger amounts of propionate than people can acquire with a normal diet.
Prof Gary Frost, who led the study at the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, said: “We’re exploring what kinds of foods it could be added to, but something like bread or fruit smoothies might work well.”
In the first tests, 20 volunteers were given either IPE or inulin, a dietary fibre, and were allowed to tuck in to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Those given IPE ate 14% less on average, and had higher concentrations of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood.
In further tests, 60 overweight volunteers took part in a 24-week study in which half were given IPE as a powder to add to their food and half given inulin.
Just one out of 25 volunteers given IPE who completed the study gained more than 3% of their body weight, compared with six out of 24 given inulin.
None of the IPE group gained more than 5% of their body weight, compared with four in the inulin group.
The findings are published in the medical journal Gut.
Prof Frost, of the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London, added: “We know that adults gain between 0.3 and 0.8 kilos a year on average, and there’s a real need for new strategies that can prevent this.”
Tech firm Imperial Innovations is now working with Prof Frost and Dr Morrison to develop the ingredient so it can be offered to consumers across the UK.