Food scientists develop ingredients that fool hunger pangs
- September 4, 2013
- Sophie Langley
Chemical engineers may have found the answer to feeling fuller for longer and help reduce snacking between meals, as they develop special food ingredients that have the potential to reduce hunger pangs once inside the stomach.
High fibre and protein rich diets are generally recognise for their ability to control hunger. However, modern food consumption has moved towards softer textured foods, which can be high in fat and sugars. These energy-rich, easily digestible foods may not create a sense of feeling full and satisfied.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham in the UK have suggested that one solution is to design foods that alter their structure once inside the body. The process could help control the rate of food digestion and also trick the body’s sensory systems, especially in the digestive tract, to help people feel fuller for longer.
“Despite being a part of everyday life, the science of managing appetites is a complex interaction of several factors and is not yet fully understood,” David Brown, Chief Executive of the Institution of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) said. “However, the sensory signals from food, the digestive tract and the body’s energy reserves are all likely components affecting the desire to eat,” he said.
The researchers have developed an improved technology, called ‘gellan gum’, which is an existing food ingredient found in products such as sweets, soft drinks and soy milk, that forms a ‘gel’ once inside the stomach. They found that by altering the chemical structure of the gellan gum they could change the properties of the gels, including important factors like bulk, brittleness and texture.
The development of such gels is a technically difficult area, where control of the gel’s bulk, strength and longevity are affected by the unique pH environment found in the stomach.
“Self-structuring gels like those researched by chemical engineers in Birmingham have a potentially important role in the future if we are to manage energy intake and address issues like obesity,” Mr Brown said.
“Some theories suggest that the bulk created by the gels distend the stomach altering the sensory signals, as well as the size and structure of food as it enters the intestines,” Mr Brown said. “This is likely to extend the time taken to digest the food and may help to reduce snacking,” he said.
“Hopefully this latest development by chemical engineers will help us to take another step forward to change lifestyles and improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people struggling to maintain a balanced diet,” Mr Brown said.
The University of Birmingham gellan gum research is due to be published in the journal Food Hydrocolloids.