A discovery made by a team of scientists at Newcastle University has opened up possibilities for making our everyday meals healthier. They have identified specific seaweeds which could block the absorption of unhealthy fats in the body.
Although alginates are already present in food, the potential to use it as food supplements could stop the human body from absorbing fat.
The Western diet is made up of 40% fat. We all need fat in our daily diets, but most individuals consume too much of it. Approximately 95 to 100% of the fat we consume is digested by an enzyme, lipase, which the human body uses to break down the fats we consume. If the amount that is digested is reduced, the absorption amount will be reduced.
The new research that has been funded by BBSRC and published in Food Chemistry has resulted in the identification of chemical properties of the alginates that could prevent fat from being digested in our bodies. If this is added to normal everyday foods, the seaweeds could aid in the prevention of absorption of most of the fats in our diets.
Professor Jeff Pearson at Newcastle University’s Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences has stated that they have already added alginate to breads and are very enthusiastic about the initial taste tests that have been undertaken. He added that the next step would be to undertake clinical trials to determine the effectiveness of the alginates when combined with a normal diet.
This research is an additional study to one previously done by this team regarding the effects of natural fibres that can be found in sea kelp. They have found that the alginate can be effective in reducing the fat absorption in the body by 75%. This is a much better result when compared to many of the anti-obesity treatments that individuals can obtain over the counter.
Image credit: Antony Shepherd