Seaweed could hold the key to tackling obesity after it was found it reduces fat uptake by more than 75 per cent.
A team at Newcastle University is now adding seaweed fibre to bread, to see if it can help people to lose weight while they eat.
The team of scientists — led by Dr Iain Brownlee and Prof Jeff Pearson — have found that dietary fibre in one of the world’s largest commercially used seaweeds could reduce the amount of fat absorbed by the body by around 75 per cent.
The Newcastle University team found that alginate — a natural fibre found in sea kelp — stops the body from absorbing fat better than most anti-obesity treatments currently available over the counter.
Using an artificial gut, they tested the effectiveness of more than 60 different natural fibres by measuring the amount of fat that was digested and absorbed with each treatment.
Presenting their findings at the American Chemical Society spring meeting in San Francisco, Dr Brownlee said the next step was to recruit volunteers and study whether the effects they have modelled in the lab can be reproduced in real people, and whether such foods are truly acceptable in a normal diet.
‘We have already added the alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging. Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet,’ explained Dr Brownlee.
The research is part of a three-year project being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. It addresses the new regulations set out by the European Food Safety Authority that any health claims made on a food label should be substantiated by scientific evidence.
Alginates are already commonly used at a very low level in many foods as thickeners and stabilisers.
When added to bread as part of a blind taste test, Dr Brownlee said the alginate bread actually scored higher for texture and richness than a standard white loaf.