A new research project at the Institute of Food Research, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is to test in humans novel ways of trying to reduce appetite, as part of a strategy to combat the problems caused by obesity in the UK.
Obesity, and associated conditions such as heart disease and Type II diabetes is a growing problem in the UK population, fuelled by a combination of dietary and lifestyle factors. The development of cheap, convenient, readily-available high energy foods means that many individuals find it difficult to balance food intake. Appetite and satiety are complex processes, but we are gaining an increasing understanding of them and this is leading to efforts to design foods that can modulate these, as an aid to controlling food intake.
Our appetite is, in part, controlled by hormones, which feedback information from our digestive system. Most nutrients are absorbed in the first part of the small intestine, the duodenum, but if we eat a large or difficult to digest meal, some of the nutrients travel past this into the ileum, at the end of the small intestine. If this happens, the nutrients stimulate cells in the gut wall to secrete hormones that suppress our appetite, slow down digestion and reduce our hunger.
Professor Peter Wilde has been investigating whether it is possible to produce food ingredients that may be able to delay fat digestion until it reached the ileum. IFR has over 20 years of research in the area of food structures, including the way fats interact with other components to form emulsions.
In the laboratory, Prof. Wilde has already shown that it is possible to slow down fat digestion by coating fat droplets with plant lipids or enzyme-treated milk proteins. These molecules make the surface of the fat droplets in emulsions resistant to the processes involved in fat digestion.
“We now want to apply these findings to human studies so that we can determine how these molecules work and measure their effects on lipid digestion, hormone release, and food intake,” said Prof. Wilde.
The project, which will receive approximately £750,000 from BBSRC, will establish whether specific emulsions will be able to delay the digestion of fats eaten during meals. As well as IFR’s expertise in food-based emulsions, the project involves world-leading experts in gut hormones and satiety from Imperial College London, highly respected experts on human fat digestion from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre in Glasgow and satiety researchers from the world renowned department of psychology at the University of Leeds.
“Carrying out these tests in human volunteers will allow us to see which systems work best, and to understand how they are controlling satiety. This will provide the information needed to design a wide variety of foods with true, verifiable satiety-controlling effects,” said Prof. Wilde. “The next step would then be to see how well these foods performed in the long term control of weight.”