Digestive traits may affect obesity issue

by Jeff Gelski
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LAS VEGAS – As the obesity epidemic continues to affect the United States, food and beverage companies and consumers want products that fill people up faster and keep them full longer, said Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., a principal at Corvus Blue, L.L.C., during a SupplySide West session Nov. 8 in Las Vegas. To create such products, companies may need to focus on an ingredient’s effects inside the body as well as its effects on a product’s label, she said. Instead of focusing so much on the caloric content of a food product, companies may focus more on how the body digests the product.

Dr. Shelke gave an example of pizza made with almond flour. The inclusion of almond flour may add ingredient costs and calories to the pizza at first glance, but pizza manufacturers and pizza consumers should recognize the almond flour will add satiety to the pizza. Consumers may eat fewer slices before feeling full.

“Even though a food may be more expensive, it becomes more affordable,” Dr. Shelke said.

Almonds have the ability to blunt the glycemic response of foods, she said. This ability may mean people are not so hungry at their next meal, which is known as the second-meal effect. Not all the fat in the almonds is absorbed by the body either, she said.

To increase satiety, food manufacturers generally add fiber to a product, but not all fibers are the same, Dr. Shelke said. Fermentation properties and viscosity affect the satiety benefits of fiber. If a fiber is highly viscous, it will make consumers feel full and it will affect how the body takes up fat and sugar.

Oligofructose, inulin and resistant starch all have high viscosity, she said.

Several other ingredients add satiety benefits.

Chia seed, which has fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids, also has the ability to absorb large amounts of moisture, Dr. Shelke said. Chia seed swells up in the stomach to give a person the impression of being full.

Crunchfuls cereals sold by Pul Foods, Inc., Mountain View, Calif., have pulse crops such as beans and lentils. The cereals thus have a lower glycemic index and yet they are still affordable, Dr. Shelke said.
She said obesity is “the name of the game” in the food and beverage industry today. More than one-third of U.S. adults were obese in 2009-10, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foods that increase satiety may have the potential to decrease the obesity percentages. Consumers may need education to understand how ingredients deliver positive effects once inside the body, but they quickly may grasp the idea of feeling full longer, Dr. Shelke said.

“Satiety is one of those attributes that people can feel,” she said.

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