British scientists are developing a new tool to tackle obesity which could put an end to gastric surgery. The product being developed is gellan gum, which is a starch like substance that is often used as an additive in foods to thicken sauces. Gellan gum is virtually calorie free and is described as a “pH-sensitive hydrocolloid”.
The research team at the School of Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University are hoping to convert gellan gum into a liquid form that can be used in diet drinks.
Gellan gum reacts with the digestive juices and helps people to feel full for much longer than other diet drinks. The effect can last for up to 6 hours and nutrients can be added to the formula to help provide a balanced diet.
“We think it is a great idea because it is so simple. The solution we designed takes advantage of the body’s natural process of digestion to convert itself into a gel that fills you up and then breaks down. We are now working on how to get it to release energy slowly, so that it not only makes the stomach feel full but also provides energy the body needs.” Dr Fotis Spyropoulos, School of Chemical Engineering at Birmingham University.
The gellan gum diet formula will work in a similar way to more traditional diet shakes, but will be more effective at curbing hunger. It is then hoped that gellan gum drink will be able to replace one meal a day in a healthy way.
“One way of tackling the rising levels of morbid obesity is to control consumers’ energy intake from foods. The problem is that foods have become softer, easily digestible and less satiating, meaning that individuals feel hungry more quickly and want to eat again, often between meals.” Dr Phil Cox from the University of Birmingham’s School of Chemical Engineering.
Dr. Phil Cox also suggested that one application of gellan gum could be to add it to breakfast cereals or a breakfast drink, as by consuming it first thing in the morning appetite could be controlled throughout the morning and reduce calorific intake by reducing hunger.
However, if such a product did make it to market for the purposes of weight loss it would have to be fortified with vitamins and minerals, otherwise people taking it would be at serious risk of malnutrition. Essentially it is designed to make you feel full without providing any nutrition.
Gellan Gum In Some Soya Milk and Fruit Drinks
According to Wikidedia gellan gum (E number E418) is already an established food additive. Gellan gum is used as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer. It is used in the soft drink Sunny Delight (source: http://www.ukfoodguide.net/e418.htm)
It was an integral part of the now defunct Orbitz soft drink. Orbitz was the product name of a noncarbonated fruit-flavored beverage, made by the company Clearly Canadian Beverage Corporation.
Gellan gum is also used in soya milks to keep the soy protein suspended in the milk.