Obesity is a growing global disease, and some are coming up with pretty unique ways to beat it using tech. Elsewhere, hope is being pinned on internal medical science, where nutritionists are trying to find substances that make people eat less.
UK scientists may have found a food supplement that selectively switches off cravings, removing the desire for high-calorie fatty foods while leaving the healthy appetite unaffected. The supplement is inulin-propionate ester, developed by researchers at Imperial College London. In a test with 20 volunteers, the researchers found that the supplement results in both less cravings for junk food, and eating smaller portions.
This test involved volunteers drinking either a milkshake containing 10 grams of inulin propionate ester, or inulin on its own, which acted as the control. Participants were then strapped to an MRI machine, and shown various pictures of low or high calorie foods. The scans show that those who had the supplement had less activity in the reward regions of their brain—but only when looking at high-calorie foods. They also found that the pictures looked less appealing. The volunteers were then given a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce and told to eat as much as they liked. The supplement group ate 10% less than the control.
Fooling the Brain
The supplement is based on the molecule propionate produced by gut bacteria that tells the brain when you've eaten enough. It originated from earlier findings that the fiber inulin can increase the production of propionate in the intestine. Therefore, by modifying inulin to contain propionate, gut bacteria is triggered to produce as much as 2.5 times more propionate. The molecule works by decreasing activity in brain areas associated with food reward.
The study was published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
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