New ‘feel fuller’ ingredient for food may aid in weight loss

Scientists have developed a food ingredient to make the stomach feel fuller faster that could change the way we lose weight.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than one-third of American adults are considered obese. Now researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom have formulated inulin-propionate ester (IPE), which has proven to be effective at preventing weigh gain in its first tests in humans.

IPE contains propionate, which is produced naturally when dietary fiber is fermented by microbes in the gut. It stimulates the release of hormones that act on the brain to reduce hunger. IPE provides much larger, more concentrated quantities of propionate than people can get from a normal diet.

"Molecules like propionate stimulate the release of gut hormones that control appetite, but you need to eat huge amounts of fiber to achieve a strong effect. We wanted to find a more efficient way to deliver propionate to the gut,” said Gary Frost, study author and professor at the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.

In the study, 20 volunteers were given 10 grams of either IPE or normal dietary fiber before eating as much as they liked from a buffet. Those given IPE ate 14 percent less than those who consumed regular fiber, and had higher concentrations of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood.

Another 60 people participated in a 24-week study, and, again, half added 10 grams of a powder form of IPE to their drink daily, while the other half added regular dietary fiber. At the end of the study, none of the IPE group experienced significant weight gain, and had less abdominal and liver fat than the dietary fiber group.

Frost told the IPE testing produced no negative side effects on volunteers, and the next step is to test if IPE has the same results when added to food, like bread or smoothies.

“We are working with partners to get evidence to make a food ingredient claim,” Frost said. "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 findings are published in the journal Gut.