The new ingredient, a modified form of a commonly used food additive, could help people lose weight by making them feel full after eating smaller amounts of food, according to German scientists.
A trial by Dow Wolff Cellulosics, the company behind the product, showed that volunteers who ate food containing the additive consumed 13 per cent fewer calories when given a second meal two hours later.
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If further trials prove that it could be of benefit to dieters, the ingredient would be suitable for use in a variety of cold foods and drinks including yogurts, fruit shakes and smoothies, they said.
Presenting results from the company's first trial at a meeting of the American Chemical Society, Dr Carsten Huettermann said: "This ingredient would make people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food.
"With that sense of fullness and hunger-satisfaction, they would not crave more food. In our first study, we saw that fewer calories were consumed at the following meal after eating our new product."
The ingredient, known as SATISFIT-LTG, is a modified version of methyl cellulose, a food additive which has been used as a binding agent in ready meals, baked goods and other snack foods for 50 years.
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Methyl cellulose is a white powder which dissolves in cold water and, when heated, turns into a gelatin-like material that holds ingredients together and gives foods a more desirable texture.
In its normal state, the ingredient passes through the stomach very quickly and does not make the person who has eaten it feel any less hungry.
But Dow Wolff, which manufactures methyl cellulose, claims it can be modified to form a gel at body temperature, meaning it remains in the stomach for longer and is absorbed by the small intestine.
Previous studies have shown that substances which turn into a gel when they reach the stomach or intestine can trigger the feeling of fullness, the scientists said.
The company announced it plans to carry out further trials based on its early-stage "proof-of-concept" experimen.
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Dr Huettermann said: "Our next step now is to investigate in further studies the mechanism of action and whether this may have an impact on weight management."
The researchers wrote in a report of their trial: "Overweight and obesity are primarily driven by over-availability of food and an increasing sedentary lifestyle.
"It is believed that reduction of casual snacking between meals and reduction in meal size due to decreased appetite will have a major impact on prevention and reduction of obesity."
Emma Williams, a member of the Nutrition Society, said: "Although these findings are interesting and may have implications for obesity management, because this is a proof-of-concept study much more research is needed to understand the processes and mechanisms of action, as well as the implications for long-term weight reduction."
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