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Seaweed gel may help reduce energy intake

By Stephen Daniells , 21-Nov-2008
Last updated on 25-Nov-2008 at 18:29 GMT

Consuming a strongly gelled alginate drink may reduce daily energy intakes by about seven per cent and play a role in weight management, says a new study.

A novel beverage containing sodium alginate was found to form a strong gel in the presence of calcium on ingestion. Ingestion of the beverage led to significant reductions in daily energy intake, regardless of gender, body weight, or the time of consumption, according to findings published in the journal Appetite.

“These findings suggest a possible future role for a strong gelling alginate formulation in the management of the growing problem of overweight and obesity,” wrote lead author Jenny Paxman from the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University.

With 50 per cent of Europeans and 62 per cent of Americans classed as overweight, the food industry is waking up to the potential of products for weight loss and management. The category is estimated to already be worth $7bn.

The new study builds on previous research from the same team of scientists, which reported that obese and overweight men consuming the strongly-gelled alginate drink experienced a restoration of cholesterol and glucose uptake to healthy levels (Nutrition Research, Vol 28, pp. 501-505).

Study details

Paxman and her co-workers recruited 68 men and women with an average age of 24.6 and an average BMI of 23.5 kg/m2 (range 18.5 - 32.8 kg/m2) and randomly assigned them to the daily alginate beverage containing 1.5 grams of alginate, or a 18.2 g dose of SlimFast (Unilever) for seven days.

Results of the randomised, controlled two-way crossover intervention found that by consuming the beverage daily produced a significant seven per cent reduction in daily energy intakes. This is equivalent to about 135 kcal.

The reduction in energy intake was parallel to significant reductions in daily carbohydrate, sugar, fat, saturated fat and protein intakes, said the researchers.

No effects of gender, BMI or the time the beverage was consumed were observed, leading the researchers to state that this indicates “the efficacy of this [formulation] for individuals in different settings”.

Beverage composition

The researchers state that the beverage was composed of 1.5 g sodium alginate (Protanal from FMC BioPolymer, with a guluronate content of 65 to 75 per cent), 0.7 g calcium carbonate, 2.8 g glucono-delta-lactone, 0.5 g sodium bicarbonate, 0.05 g malic acid, 0.24 g vanilla flavour and 7 g fructose. The composition is reportedly patented under patent number WO2007039294.

The researchers were affiliated with the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, and Technostics Ltd. Technostics funded the study.

Source: Appetite Volume 51, Pages 713-719“Daily ingestion of alginate reduces energy intake in free-living subjects”Authors: J.R. Paxman, J.C. Richardson, P.W. Dettmar, B.M. Corfe

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