They found they could alter the chemical structure of the gelling agent gellan gum so that it can extend the digestion period of food in the stomach. When in the stomach the gel is said to alter the sensory signals, as well as the size and structure of food as it enters the intestines.
“Adding the gel to a food would mean that the stomach wouldn't break down food as quickly and would reduce the desire to snack in-between meals,” said lead researcher Jennifer Bradbeer. “We believe this will [help fight obesity].”
‘Improve the health and wellbeing of millions’
The Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) welcomed the research. IChemE chief executive David Brown said self-structuring gels have the potential to improve the health and wellbeing of millions of people who are struggling with obesity.
Food nutrition specialist DSM said satiety was a key theme in weight management and that it would look to test gellan gum against its own satiety formulations, such as Fabuless.
“Further studies will be necessary to validate the research into gellan gum and we will look to test the ingredient in our formulations for weight management and satiety, in combination with Fabuless and other functional ingredients,” DSM's global marketing manager Giovani Saggioro said.
‘No one thing that can stop it’
The British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) warned that, although gels might help people lose weight in the short-term, they should not be seen as a golden bullet to combat obesity.
“It can work in the short term for people that need to lose a large amount of weight and those reducing their calorie count,” said the BNF's senior nutrition scientist Bridget Benelam. "But the nature of obesity is you will never find one thing that can stop it. People need long-term change. Without being active and having a long-term healthy diet, the weight will go back on.”