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Seaweed bread – a food to fight Britain’s obesity?

Researchers at Newcastle University have reported that a fibre found in seaweed could reduce the body’s absorption of fat by over 75 per cent.

In tests using an artificial gut, the researchers measured the amount of fat that was digested and absorbed after treatment with over 60 different natural fibres. Alginate, the fibrous material found in sea kelp, was shown to effectively block more fat absorption than many slimming aids and anti-obesity treatments currently available over the counter.

These initial results suggest that if alginate was added to everyday foods, such as bread, biscuits and yogurt, it could prevent three quarters of the fat contained within meals from being absorbed.

Speaking at the American Chemical Society Spring meeting in San Francisco, Dr Brownlee and his team also reported that results of initial taste tests using bread with added alginate have been encouraging.

More tests needed

“This research was presented by scientists at a conference and has not yet been published, which makes it difficult to comment on the methods used in the study and its precise outcomes," said Katherine Woods, Research Communications Officer at Diabetes UK.

"As the researchers said themselves, the next step is to see if alginate has the same effects in human participants as was seen in these laboratory tests using an artificial gut.

"Also, it will be important to test whether alginate has any unwanted effects on the digestive system if eaten on a regular basis. The best way to manage weight is by eating a healthy, balanced diet and doing at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week.

Need for physical activity

“Foods enriched with substances such as alginate could help people to manage their weight, but this wouldn’t replace the need for regular physical activity which can improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin and lower the risk of Type 2 diabetes independently of diet.”

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