9:05am Monday 22nd March 2010
By Mark Tallentire
SEAWEED could hold the key to tackling the obesity epidemic, according to North-East scientists.
Newcastle University experts have discovered seaweed fibre could reduce the body’s fat uptake by more than 75 per cent.
The researchers are experimenting by adding the fibre to bread, to see if they can develop foods that help people lose more weight the more they eat.
Scientists found alginate – a natural fibre found in sea kelp – stops the body from absorbing fat better than most anti-obesity treatments available over the counter.
They tested the effectiveness of more than 60 different natural fibres using an artificial gut.
The team now wants to recruit volunteers and study whether the effects they have modelled in the laboratory can be reproduced in people – and whether such foods are acceptable in a normal diet.
Dr Iain Brownlee said: “The aim of this study was to put these products to the test and our initial findings are that alginates significantly reduce fat digestion.
“This suggests that if we can add the natural fibre to products commonly eaten daily – such as bread, biscuits and yoghurts – up to three quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body.
“We have already added the alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging.
“Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet.
“There are countless claims about miracle cures for weight loss, but only a few cases offer any sound scientific evidence to back up these claims.
“Obesity is an ever-growing problem and many people find it difficult to stick to diet and exercise plans in order to lose weight.
“Alginates not only have great potential for weight management – adding them to food also has the added advantage of boosting overall fibre content.
“These initial findings suggest alginates could offer a very real solution in the battle against obesity.”
The research is part of a threeyear project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
Dr Brownlee will present his findings today at the American Chemical Society spring meeting, in San Francisco.
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