Food: Slimmers' yoghurt claims to make stomach feel full

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The Independent Online
Chocolates, biscuits and sweets which claim to fill you up - thus helping you lose weight - could be just around the corner. Nutritionists however are more sceptical. Glenda Cooper, Consumer Affairs Correspondent, reports.

Scientists yesterday introduced a yoghurt with an ingredient which they say could help you lose weight by fooling the body into thinking that the stomach is full.

A substance called Olibra, made from palm oil and oat oil, is said to trigger the chemical reaction in the small intestine which tells the brain that you have had enough to eat. The first yoghurts containing Olibra went on sale in Sweden yesterday and the developer of the product, Scotia Pharmaceuticals, said it hoped to follow suit in Britain.

But nutritionists said yesterday that more work was needed before it would be possible to say whether the yoghurt fulfilled expectations, and they asked Scotia Pharmaceuticals for more information on the product.

Olibra is made by taking palm oil and extracting ingredients which appear to activate sensors in the intestine which then release peptides into the blood. These in turn send messages to the brain that food is in the gut.

Mixing palm oil with oat oil and water produces an emulsion which carries the Olibra swiftly into the small intestine.

Scotia says that the feeling of fullness lasts for three to six hours, reducing the temptation to snack between meals and lessening the desire for food. It claims that consumption of calories at the next meal is significantly reduced.

A trial carried out by the University of Ulster involving 29 men and women found that after eating the yoghurt calorie intake was reduced by 16 per cent. Fat intake was reduced by 22.5 per cent.

The participants in the double blind trial ate breakfast and then lunch when they were given either a normal or an Olibra yoghurt.

At 5pm a buffet meal was served where participants could eat as much as they liked. The amount of food eaten by each volunteer was recorded by pre-weighing all foods and weighing the leftovers.

The yoghurt's makers insist this is not an appetite suppressant along the lines of controversial drugs because it uses ingredients which occur naturally in the diet, and activates natural reactions.

However, Tom Sanders, professor of human nutrition at King's College, London, and author of You Don't Have To Diet, said yesterday that more testing was needed: "The company is trying to wheedle its way into selling a product ... without testing for safety.

"The study is very short-term and it is not going to say whether it's going to work in the long-term. It also takes quite a long time to get signals to the brain and most people wolf their food down in 20 minutes whereas the brain signals may take one or two hours."

He added that even if the substance made you feel full, that was not necessarily the answer to controlling appetite. "The reasons why we gain weight and overeat are really quite complex. The idea that obesity is due to not controlling hunger signals is not the whole story. Most people eat because of the social situation."

Robert Dow, chief executive of Scotia, said yesterday that studies to see the long-term effects and any side effects would be carried out.

But Professor Sanders said the idea that the product was "natural" and, therefore, safe was not acceptable: "You need to have everything tested after BSE where things were natural but extremely nasty."