Speaking at the World Grains Summit in San Francisco last week, the university's Dr Mary Ellen Camire identified this as one of several ways to potentially increase the satiation effects of breakfast foods.
Other suggestions included adding protein, adding dietary fiber or adding volume to breakfast goods, said Camire, who presented an overview of previous satiety research, and the effect of consuming breakfast on food intake levels throughout the remainder of the day.
With the food industry's realization that satiety has become a significant driver in consumption habits, increasing numbers of products are being marketed for the enhanced feelings of fullness they provide after eating. They thereby act as a boost to a person's will-power and help them avoid a reversion to old habits in a bid to stave off hunger pangs, or 'grazing' in between meals.
In a recent interview with FoodNavigator-USA.com, Tony DeLio, vice president and general manager of National Starch, said that if satiety can be achieved, it will be "the Holy Grail of nutrition".
After all, up to 40 percent of the US population is reported to be on a diet, so the area of hunger management remains an area of relatively untapped potential.
Two primary methods used today by food manufacturers looking to create satiating products include adding fiber, which can be in the form of soluble fiber or beta-glucans, or adding protein into formulations. For example, current products with high fiber and protein levels marketed for their weight control benefits include Quaker's Weight Control oats and Danone'sCrave Control yogurts.
But adding fibers that gel in the stomach remains an area of opportunity, according to Camire, who suggested that more research needs to be done in this area in order to gauge its full potential.
Based on research conducted in 2004, Carmine indicated that incorporating certain gums into product formulations - such as alginates or guar gums - will result in these reacting with the acid in the stomach and forming a kind of gel, which keeps consumers feeling full longer.
This has already been tested in beverages, but Camire believes the method could also present an opportunity for bakery and breakfast food manufacturers, who currently may use very small quantities of the ingredients in their formulations for the functional properties that these provide.
It is a topic that Maine's food scientists hope to look into further in a new research project on satiety they are due to start work on. The project will primarily focus on the consumption of satiating breakfast cereals and the effect these have on reducing total calorie intake throughout the day.
The scientists will conduct their research on overweight consumers, in contrast to most satiety work conducted so far, which has focused on responses in people of normal weight, said Camire.
"We suspect that overweight people respond differently, and it is important to understand these responses, especially as it is specifically people who are overweight that this type of product is designed for," she told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
The new research project, which will especially examine the satiation properties of whole grains, will involve around 40 overweight individuals, who will consume one of three breakfast goods in the mornings, and will be monitored for their feelings of fullness every half hour. Their food intake throughout the remainder of the day will also be recorded, and the scientists expect to find that people who consume a satiating breakfast will have a lower overall calorie intake throughout the day.
Indeed, this is a topic that has been examined in the past, with previous figures from the National Weight Control Registry indicating that 78 percent of people who manage to maintain a healthy body weight eat breakfast regularly. And NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) indicated that people who ate breakfast cereal or quick breads for breakfast had a lower BMI (Body Mass Index) than people who skipped a meal or ate meat and eggs.
In conclusion, Camire indicated that there are clear opportunities to design satiating breakfast foods that may contribute to weight loss, but that a considerable amount of research remains to be done.