Above: Adding alginate, a powder made from seaweed, to foodstuffs could make them healthier.
Seaweed Extract stops fat being broken down and absorbed by the body
Dieters could soon have their cake and eat it – guilt-free.
Scientists plan to add a seaweed extract to some of our favourite foods to make them healthier and tastier.
The colourless and tasteless powder stops fat being broken down and absorbed by the body – which could help the pounds fall off.
In tests, a fibre found in seaweed was better at blocking fat than many weight loss supplements – and almost as good as the over-the-counter diet pill Alli.
The success of the tests means new diet cakes, sausages, bread and soft drinks could soon be on the supermarket shelves.
The excitement surrounds alginate, a gel found in seaweed that is already used in small amounts to thicken ice cream, yoghurt and toothpaste. Some companies also use it to make the head on beer last longer.
Now the Newcastle University research suggests it could also help halt the rising tide of obesity. Tests showed it stopped up to three-quarters of the fat in food being digested into pieces small enough to be absorbed by the body. Researcher Dr Matthew Wilcox said: ‘Normally, between 95 and 100 per cent of all the food eaten is broken down and absorbed.
‘If you don’t absorb as much fat, then hopefully you can lose weight.’
The research team was also able to identify which types of alginate are most effective.
Now they are in talks with several major food companies to make alginate-supplemented products. More testing is needed but the first products could be on supermarket shelves next year.
Unlike low-fat foods, fat wouldn’t be removed from any alginate-enhanced products, meaning taste shouldn’t be affected. If anything, adding the seaweed fibre could enhance it.
Volunteers who ate the alginate bread found it tastier than the normal version – perhaps because the slices were moister.
And fat-busting effect wouldn’t be limited to the supplemented food.
For instance, the fat in a burger and chips would be targeted by alginate in the bun or in the fizzy drink accompanying the meal.
Dr Wilcox added that while healthy eating and exercise should be the mainstay of any diet, seaweed supplemented foods may give slimmers an extra boost.
“...Now they are in talks with several major food companies to make alginate-supplemented products. More testing is needed but the first products could be on supermarket shelves next year........"