Researchers from Unilever's Research and Development in the Netherlands compared the effects on hunger after drinking a meal-replacement drink with the fiber, alginate, at two different strengths and without alginate.The higher concentration alginate meal-replacement drink reduced hunger longest , up to nearly five hours after drinking higher concentration alginate meal-replacement drink. It also kept people full the longest. Unilever makes the popular meal replacement drink Slim-Fast.
Alginate is Not New in the Food Industry
Alginate is a fiber extracted from seaweed. Alginate is often found in chocolate milk, eggnog, drinkable yogurt and fruit-flavored yogurts to make a smoother mixture, as a clarifying agent and as a stabilizer. Alginate is used in ice cream to assure a creamy texture and prevent ice crystals from forming, in fruit flavored popsicles, alginate helps distribute fruit uniformly during the freezing process and stops them from dripping while eating. Alginate is also used in salad dressings, sauces and gravies to extend their shelf life and prevent separation. Alginate is also used as a sort of gelling agent in pudding, pie and pastry fillings and mousses Alginate is already added to some other meal replacements on the market.
Seaweed Fiber Alginate Can Reduce Hunger
23 volunteers were asked to drink three meal-replacement different drinks on three occasions. The meal-replacement drinks were as follows:
- A chocolate meal-replacement drink with 0.6% alginate.
- A chocolate meal-replacement drink with 0.8% alginate.
- A chocolate meal-replacement drink under development by Slim-Fast, a Unilever brand.
Participants drank one of the three meal-replacement drinks for breakfast. Every half-hour from the time they drank at 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. the participants rated their hunger and fullness.
Each meal-replacement drink had about 190 calories, nearly 7 grams of fat, 10 grams of protein, and about 24 grams of carbohydrates. All meal-replacement drinks had similar amounts of fiber, from 4.7 to 5.2 grams a serving.
Participants were ages 18 to 60. Participants body mass indexes (BMIs) ranged from healthy to obese.
More Aliginate - Less Hunger
The higher-concentrate alginate drink worked best to delay hunger and keep drinkers feeling full. At the five-hour mark, for instance, those who drank the comparison meal-replacement drink rated their fullness at 10 on scale of zero to 80. Those who drank the higher-concentrate alginate meal-replacement drink rated it at over 20.
On the hunger rating, those who drank the higher-concentrate alginate meal-replacement drink staved off hunger for at least four hours, longer than the other meal-replacement drinks. On a hunger scale of zero to 80, those who had the higher-concentrate alginate drink rated their hunger, on average, at about 68 before drinking the higher-concentrate alginate meal-replacement drink drink and about 63 at 4.5 hours later. By five hours, their hunger was back to what it was before drinking higher-concentrate alginate meal-replacement drink.
How Alginate Reduces Hunger
Once alginate reaches the acidic environment of the stomach, the release of calcium in the stomach makes the alginate gel.
The gel is thought to slow down the emptying of food from the stomach, similar to how casein protein gels, slow down the emptying of food from the stomach and keeps people full longer. Alginate may also distend the stomach mimicing the effect of eating solid food.
Alginate Slim-Fast Coming Soon?
Wiseman cannot estimate when the new Slim-Fast alginate meal-replacement drink will be on the market. The researchers are still working out what she calls ''technical challenges" with the technology, such as improving the ''slimy mouth feel" that can accompany a drink with a high concentration of alginate.
- Peters, H. Obesity, online April 21, 2011.
- Sheila Wiseman, PhD, research manager, Unilever Research & Development, Vlaardingen, Netherlands.