What makes a person feel full? And can scientists bottle it? The answers, it seems, are not far off. While researchers seek to unlock the secret to satiety, food manufacturers and retailers are standing by, hoping to reap billions in profits from ingredients that would help America and the rest of the world win the battle with obesity.
While many people believe that obesity results from simple overeating, scientists are trying to determine what leads to overeating in the first place. Satiety—staying full longer—is just one side of the equation, and the one that seems to have the most promising solutions in the short term. There?s also a need, however, to learn how to prevent people from getting so hungry in the first place.
Some researchers blame an excess of a gremlin known as ghrelin—aka the hunger hormone—for our ability to eat ever-increasing portions. Others blame a deficiency of leptin, the so-called satiety hormone, for enabling us to eat the whole box of macaroni and cheese. Still others cite a scarcity of CCK, a hormone produced by the small intestine that slows the emptying of the stomach and leaves people with a feeling of fullness.
As food scientists discover these mechanisms of appetite control, manufacturers are lining up to incorporate them into the next big products—and convince consumers to buy a whole new category of foods for better health. Among the first was Matawan, N.J.-based Pacific Health Laboratories, which in 2003 launched Satietrol, a beverage mix intended to be drunk 10 to 15 minutes before a meal to stimulate the release of CCK. The company?s internal research showed Satietrol decreased hunger by up to 35 percent for more than three hours after eating. And Satise, which is derived from potatoes and manufactured by Canadian firm Vivitas, is just one of many supplements that aims to reduce hunger and increase satiety by stimulating CCK. But the market is now heating up for ingredients to be incorporated into foods.
One of those foods is oatmeal—and for good reason. According to ?The Satiety Index,? published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition in September 1995, oats rank up there with potatoes as the top two most satiating foods. Quaker Oats isn?t letting that information go unnoticed; it?s marketing a line extension called Weight Control Instant Oatmeal. Packed with 6 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and two daily servings of whole grains, the company says the product helps people feel full.
?There seems to be this huge race going on with value-added oatmeal,? says John DePaolis, marketing director for Eden Prairie, Minn.-based Country Choice, which manufactures organic cookies, hot cereals and healthy snacks. ?Kashi kind of started it. … They own the weight position on the natural side. I?m guessing that what Quaker did with Weight Control is to pre-empt Kashi [in the mainstream market]—I?m speculating here. But it would make perfect sense for them to come out with a Good Friends or Go Lean oatmeal.? Kashi, owned by Kellogg, and Quaker, which is owned by Pepsi, both have pockets deep enough to duke it out.
Of course, Country Choice offers its own version of high-fiber oatmeal, without the sucralose and artificial flavors and colors that Quaker contains. ?If you look at our Organic Plus … it has the same protein level [but] fiber is a little lower, at 3 grams,? DePaolis says. Still, the company is not in a position to go head-to-head with the likes of Quaker and Kashi. ?All we can do is not get splashed as these elephants dance,? he says. ?They?re going to help elevate the category.?
Not only are satiety ingredients being added to oat products, but oats themselves are being used to make satiety enhancers. GTC Nutrition, based in Golden, Colo., launched Natureal, an all-natural concentrate of oat bran fiber, which is high in beta-glucan, a soluble fiber. ?Natureal increases the viscosity of stomach contents, which slows stomach emptying,? and extends the feeling of fullness, according to the company?s Web site.
?Not all fibers will develop viscosity in the same way that beta-glucan does,? says Juliana Zeiher, applications manager for GTC. Natureal also alters the body?s fat absorption mechanism, she explains. ?The fat from the diet does not emulsify as effectively and therefore less is absorbed, leading to higher levels of fat that are excreted.? According to Zeiher, the viscous fiber also helps remove cholesterol and extends energy release. ?These are all positive attributes when developing products for healthy weight maintenance,? she says.
Natureal is already being used in cereals, pastas, crackers and bars. Peak Bar, manufactured in Colorado Springs, Colo., recently introduced a line of energy and protein bars enhanced with Natureal. GTC says the ingredient can also be used in meat substitutes and powdered beverages. Swedish firm Lipid Technologies Provider has also incorporated the power of oats into a satiety ingredient. Originally marketed as Olibra (and sold as a supplement at GNC stores since May), the ingredient is now licensed by Dutch nutritional ingredients supplier DSM, under the name Fabuless.
An all-natural, proprietary combination of palm oil surrounded by oat oil, Fabuless has been clinically proven in four published studies to create and maintain a feeling of satiety, according to the company. ?These [oat oil lipids] prevent digestion of the palm oil in the stomach until it reaches the small intestine,? explains David Jobse, Fabuless? product manager. ?Upon arrival in the latter part of the small intestine, the oil is interpreted as undigested fat. This is recognized as a signal that the body has had enough food. The brain then realizes there is no need for further calorie intake, and so suppresses the hunger signals that would normally be sent.?
DSM says the product can result in consuming up to 25 percent fewer calories, without uncomfortable sacrifices. ?We reckon, if you want to do something about your weight the natural way, there?s two options you could take. The first is about energy output—which is related to doing more exercises. The other is about energy input; thus you should eat a little less. That is what Fabuless is about,? Jobse says.
DSM plans to license Fabuless to U.S. food manufacturers beginning next year. ?Fabuless has a great fit with dairy products, both from a marketing and from an application perspective,? Jobse says. The two textures combine well, and consumers think of yogurt, cottage cheese and the like as low-calorie foods. Jobse said DSM is also being approached by a lot of ?slimming foods manufacturers.?
Glanbia Nutritionals, based in Kilkenny, Ireland, took a different tack when it launched Provon, a whey protein isolate containing more than 90 percent protein. Protein and fiber are widely known satiety enhancers because they add bulk to food. Whey protein in particular contains high levels of glycomacropeptides, which may increase satiety by stimulating CCK release. And according to Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals (?The latest gains on the weight-loss front,? September 2005), ?Its texture and solubility make it suited for dairy products, desserts, powdered beverage mixes, bars and snacks.?
Other ingredients on the radar screen for satiety control are xylitol and polydextrose, specialty carbohydrates that have been shown to improve satiety independently and when used together. Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, slows stomach emptying, while polydextrose is a fiber that can be added to dairy products to increase the bulk and lower the calorie-density of foods.
Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 11/p. 20, 24, 26