Researchers from the Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow compared the impacts of supplementation with dietary fibre inulin alone with a novel inulin-propionate ester (IPE) combination. The team were now looking at partnering with members of the food industry to market the satiety ingredient.
Propionate stimulates the release of hormones in the gut that reduce hunger and is naturally generated when dietary fibre is fermented by microbes in the gut. However the ingredient provides higher levels than it’s possible to achieve though a normal diet, they said.
In an initial test 20 participants were given either IPE or inulin alone and told to eat as much as they wanted from a buffet. The IPE group had higher levels of appetite-reducing hormones in their blood and ate 14% less than the inulin group.
In a second phase, 60 overweight participants were given either IPE as a powder to add to food or inulin for a period of 24 weeks. In the IPE group, 1/25 people gained a further 3% or more of their total body weight while for inulin this was 6/24.
No participants in the IPE group gained over 5%, while four people did in the inulin group. At the end of the 24 weeks, the IPE volunteers had less fat in their abdomens and livers compared to the inulin group.
Going to market
Professor Gary Frost, who led the study, 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. You need to eat it regularly to have an effect. We're exploring what kinds of foods it could be added to, but something like bread or fruit smoothies might work well."
Tech firm Imperial Innovations is now working with Frost and his colleagues to take the ingredient to market, with particular focus on inclusions which would have the widest impact. The team is seeking interested food industry partners.
Dr Douglas Morrison, who is also working on the project, said: "There is significant interest in how food components like dietary fibre interact with gut microbes to influence health, but much of the evidence we rely upon comes from laboratory and animal studies. It is often difficult to translate these findings directly into successful human interventions.
"Packaging propionate up to more efficiently deliver it to the large intestine has allowed us to make direct observations in humans that propionate may play an important role in weight management. These exciting findings could at last open up new ways to manipulate gut microbes to improve health and prevent disease."
Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2014-307913
“Effects of targeted delivery of propionate to the human colon on appetite regulation, body weight maintenance and adiposity in overweight adults”
Authors: E. S. Chambers, A. Viardot, A. Psichas, D. J. Morrison, K. G. Murphy, S. E. K Zac-Varghese, K. MacDougall, T. Preston, C. Tedford, G. S. Finlayson, J. E. Blundell, J. D. Bell, E. L. Thomas, S. Mt-Isa, D. Ashby, G. R. Gibson, S. Kolida, W. S. Dhillo, S. R. Bloom, W. Morley, S. Clegg and G. Frost