Seaweed could let us all have our cake and eat it without piling on the pounds, according to scientists.
Researchers at Newcastle University have identified varieties of the plant that prevent the body absorbing fat.
They are exploring how seaweed extracts, or alginates, could be used as a supplement to make everyday foods like cakes, sausages and pastries healthier.
By reducing the amount of fat available for the body to absorb by about 75 per cent, seaweed beats most anti-obesity treatments available over the counter.
Professor Jeff Pearson, of Newcastle University's Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, said: “We have already added alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging.
“Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet.”
Tangle or “cuvie” seaweed, found widely around the UK’s coastline, is the most effective preventing the digestion of fat.
Its brown, slimy appearance may not be the most appetising but if scientists can concentrate its properties into a tasteless supplement, it could go unnoticed in a cupcake or biscuit.
Bladderwrack, another type of seaweed native to British shores, and bull kelp also topped the league table.
Dr Matthew Wilcox said: “What we have shown is that the seaweeds with a high level of guluronate stop the body breaking down and absorbing fat.
“As they are already used in the food industry in small amounts, we are looking at increasing their levels in foods which could reduce the amount of fat that we get which could help in weight management.”