By Helen Bridle
Aberdeen University is part of a major European project to redesign food to help people lose weight, the British Science Festival heard yesterday.
Food which makes us feel fuller for longer reduces appetite and leads to weight loss. The scientists hope the new satiating foods will contribute to combating obesity. It is estimated that 60 per cent of men, 50 per cent of women and 25 per cent of children in the UK will be obese by 2050.
The collaborative project between academics and food production companies will investigate which food processing technologies and which supplements included in food result in products which suppress appetite.
Dr Alex Johnstone from the Rowett Institute of Nutrition and Health described it as “the health by stealth approach”.
Her main interest is in the part of the project which aims to improve understanding of the biological mechanisms which operate between stomach and the brain to control appetite. Her goal is to tease out the physiological means by which certain foods make us feel fuller.
However, eating is not just a physiological activity. We gain pleasure and enjoyment from food, and eating is a social activity as well. The project will also consider what role our senses play in contributing to feeling full in terms of the flavour, texture and visual appeal of food.
In the first two and a half years, the project will test different food products on volunteers developing a range of satiating products and studying the effect on weight loss and health. Finally, in the last six months the range will form the entire diet for a test group in Denmark, providing a long-term evaluation of the potential impact of the feeling-full food.
Dr Johnstone believes that consumption of protein is an essential component of feeling full for longer. The source of protein in the diet in less important and she has previously shown that both meat-based and vegetarian high protein diets are effective at controlling appetite.
However, she advises that even on a high protein diet one should maintain a moderate consumption of carbohydrate to protect gut health.