The cravings for rich foods may be controlled by a novel supplement.
A powdered new supplement contains bacteria from the gut. It ends cravings for such junk foods as pizza, chocolate and cake. The study which was undertaken showed this on a consistent basis.
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Scientists asked 20 subjects to drink a milkshake that had inulin-propionate ester or the fiber inulin in it. Bacteria in the human gut release propionate each time they digest inulin fiber.
This signals to the brain to stop all cravings dead in their tracks. The appetite is lessened and a bad case of the “munchies” undergoes extinction.
The supplement though releases more propionate than inulin in the intestines. After drinking the supplement, the subjects had their MRI scans taken.
Meanwhile during this process, they were shown pics of low calorie and high calorie foods. These included salad, fish and vegetables in case of the former.
Chocolate, cake and pizza were shown in case of the latter. The subjects showed less activity in the area of the brain where the reward centers were located. Yet this was only for the high calorie food.
When the volunteers drank the supplement, they rated the high calorie food as not in accordance with their preferred taste. In another part of the study, the participants were given a bowl of pasta with a topping of tomato sauce.
They ate 10% less when they had consumed the supplement prior to eating the bowl of pasta. The supplement seemed to be an ideal weight loss aid of sorts.
While the supplement seems to work on a consistent basis, the exact mechanism through which it accomplishes its craving-control act remains a mystery.
To seek to eat the inulin fiber from natural foods instead of in supplement form would be a fool’s errand. That is because one would have to consume so much to reach the effective dose required that it would not be practical or feasible.
The weight loss benefits of this supplement are definitely very real. The guts of people who weigh less may have more inulin in them to begin with. It appears to be the case that the central issue in the obesity equation is the gut.
It is where all the absorption of nutrients takes place and it also happens to be the organ responsible for sending signals of hunger and satiety to the brain. Appetite suppression is a very smart way of fighting the obesity epidemic that is rife in today’s world.
Professor Gary Frost, senior author of the study from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, said: "Our previous findings showed that people who ate this ingredient gained less weight -- but we did not know why. This study is filling in a missing bit of the jigsaw -- and shows that this supplement can decrease activity in brain areas associated with food reward at the same time as reducing the amount of food they eat."
He added that eating enough fibre to naturally produce similar amounts of propionate would be difficult: "The amount of inulin-propionate ester used in this study was 10g - which previous studies show increases propionate production by 2.5 times. To get the same increase from fibre alone, we would need to eat around 60g a day. At the moment, the UK average is 15g."
Claire Byrne, a PhD researcher also from the Department of Medicine explained that using inulin-propionate ester as a food ingredient may help prevent weight gain: "If we add this to foods it could reduce the urge to consume high calorie foods." She added that some people's gut bacteria may naturally produce more propionate than others, which may be why some people seem more naturally predisposed to gain weight.
Dr Tony Goldstone, co-senior author of the study from the Department of Medicine added: "This study adds to our previous brain imaging studies in people who have had gastric bypass surgery for obesity. These show that altering how the gut works can change not only appetite in general, but also change how the brain responds when they see high-calorie foods, and how appealing they find the foods to be."
Dr Douglas Morrison, author of the paper from the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, commented: "We developed inulin-propionate ester to investigate the role of propionate produced by the gut microbiota in human health. This study illustrates very nicely that signals produced by the gut microbiota are important for appetite regulation and food choice. This study also sheds new light on how diet, the gut microbiome and health are inextricably linked adding to our understanding of how feeding our gut microbes with dietary fibre is important for healthy living."
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This study got published in July edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.