Have scientists finally found the fat-busting fairy dust to sprinkle on food that will make people feel more full? Research from the U.K. suggests they’re getting closer.
Scientists at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow developed a new ingredient, using propionate, a short chain fatty acid naturally produced in our guts when microbes ferment fiber. The new ingredient, inulin-propionate ester (IPE) provides much larger doses of propionate than people can gain through a normal diet. The IPE stimulates the gut to release hormones that act on the brain to reduce hunger. An early trial found that the ingredient is effective at preventing weight gain in overweight people.
Results from the study have been published in the journal Gut. For the first part of the research, 20 overweight people were given either IPE or inulin, a dietary fiber, and were set loose on a buffet, allowed to eat as much as they wanted. Those given IPE ate 14 percent less on average, and had higher concentrations of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood, according to an article about the study on ingredients.network.
Next, 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. One out of 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 four in the inulin group.
After 24 weeks, the IPE group also had less fat in their abdomens and livers compared with the inulin group.
“This small, proof-of-principle study shows encouraging signs that supplementing one’s diet with the ingredient we’ve developed prevents weight gain in overweight people,” the study’s leader, Gary Frost, a professor at the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London told science20.com. “You need to eat it regularly to have an effect. We’re exploring what kinds of foods it could be added to, but something like bread or fruit smoothies might work well.”
Douglas Morrison, from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, said, in the same article: “Packaging propionate up to more efficiently deliver it to the large intestine has allowed us to make direct observations in humans that propionate may play an important role in weight management. These exciting findings could at last open up new ways to manipulate gut microbes to improve health.”
The research with IPE is just the latest that links the microbiotic action in our gut to potential weight loss strategies. Earlier this year, a Canadian study published in the British Journal of Nutrition suggested that a certain strain of probiotics helps women lose weight and keep it off. Men, on the other hand, will have to wait for the IPE.