‘Intelligent foods’ could hold the key to fighting obesity.
So say Dutch researchers who say it may be possible to create foods which tell your body that you have eaten enough. They believe these foods could contain a special chemical which mimics the natural message our stomach sends the brain when it is full.
The idea is that if the food you eat can send this message earlier, you will not be tempted to overeat. The researchers, therefore, are trying to decode the natural message that is sent from the gut to the brain.
“We know nutrients interact with gut cells, which dispatch chemical messengers – hormones– to the brain to signal ‘stomach full’,” said endocrinologist Jens Holst of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, speaking to youris.com.
Holst has previously identified a small molecule in the stomach, known as glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1); this molecule is thought to act on parts of the brain that control appetite.
By investigating exactly how this messaging works, Holst, along with EU funded project Full4Health, hopes to be able to recreate the messaging effect via pills and, one day, by modifying food.
Full4Health project coordinator Julian Mercer, obesity scientist at the University of Aberdeen, said: “There is a raft of hormones, which are all satiety hormones, which will tend to help terminate a meal.
“We don’t know much about which nutrients are involved and whether we can manipulate how food interacts with those signalling systems and how those systems are integrated at different levels in the brain.”
Should they learn more about this process and one day introduce it into ‘smart foods’, it could become invaluable when it comes to tackling obesity, a growing problem in the UK today.
Britain has one of the most sedentary populations in the world, falling even behind the Americans. Britain has twice as many people defined as ‘inactive’ than France, for instance, with 63.3% of Britons failing to meet recommended levels of physical activity.
Even in the US, where more than 30% of people are obese, that figure only stands at 40.5%.