By any measure, Americans have a weight problem. Two-thirds of adults in this country are either obese or overweight, and childhood obesity rates are soaring. Causes run the gamut from genetics to lifestyle, but food choices complicate matters.

So far, the food processing industry has taken plenty of blame, but is there a role for food producers in addressing this issue? Can the industry become part of the solution instead of part of the problem? “[Food processors] are in situation where every calorie counts and may be scrutinized in the products that we offer,” stated Elizabeth Arndt, PhD, director of R&D, ConAgra Mills, Omaha, NE.

Recommendations in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) lay out a solution. Of the two overarching concepts it presented, one dealt directly with food formulation, advising consumers to “Focus on consuming nutrient-dense foods and beverages.” Nutrient-dense, not calorie-dense. That directive encourages reduction of sugar and fat and the calories they contain. And it suits formulating with fiber, whole grains and ingredients promoting satiety.


When most people feel full, they reach satiation, and they stop eating.

“Grains provide complex carbohydrates, which produce a feeling of satiety and help prevent the insulin spike caused by refined grain flours,” said Dave Pfefer, product manager, enrichment/fortification blends, Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS. Whole grains are increasingly recognized as nutrient-dense foods with a role to play in weight management.

Grain-based foods have a built-in advantage: the grains themselves. “Product developers can take advantage of the increased absorption requirements and higher fiber contents of whole grains to help lower the caloric density of foods,” said Dr. Arndt. “Whole grains correlate with weight management.”

Barley is well-known for its beta-glucans, a form of soluble dietary fiber. ConAgra’s Sustagrain is a proprietary type of waxy, hull-less whole-grain barley with three times the level of both total dietary fiber and beta-glucan compared with whole oats.

“The higher fiber content, the balance of soluble and insoluble fiber types, and the lower starch content make Sustagrain particularly well-suited as a whole-grain ingredient for use in foods that may help consumers manage hunger and weight,” Dr. Arndt said. It consists of 12% beta-glucan and 30% dietary fiber overall.

She described research using Sustagrain barley consumed as a hot breakfast cereal and mid-morning granola snack. It significantly decreased hunger prior to lunch compared with whole wheat and refined rice. In another study, Sustagrain consumed at breakfast delayed between-meal snacking, increased satiety and improved glucose tolerance at the lunch meal.

Resistant starch, also present in grain-based foods, is a powerful tool in promoting satiety. Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager, nutrition, National Starch Food Innovation, Bridgewater, NJ, described the effects on satiety of the company’s Hi-maize resistant starch. “When fed in muffins for breakfast, resistant starch had the highest impact on satiety over two to three hours than other types of dietary fiber (corn bran, beta-glucan from oats and barley, and polydextrose),” she said. “In addition, Hi-maize resistant starch increases satiety over a longer term and can help individuals eat less food over 24 hours.” There was even evidence suggesting that fermentation of Hi-maize in the large intestine turns on the genes that make satiety hormones.

Describing MGP Ingredients’ Fibersym RW, a resistant wheat starch, Ody Maningat, PhD, vice-president, applications technology and technical services, MGP Ingredients, Inc., Atchison, KS, noted that its calculated caloric contribution is about one-third lower than that of unmodified starch. “The ability of resistant starch to treat or prevent obesity is linked to a number of studies, showing increased satiety after resistant starch consumption,” he said.

Consisting of chained fructose molecules, fructooligosaccharides (FOS) like inulin also promote slower energy release than simple carbohydrates because these materials are digested and absorbed more slowly. “Pilot studies have shown that inulin can have an effect on satiety, but more research is needed regarding a potential mechanism,” said Deborah Schulz, product manager, Oliggo-Fiber inulin, Cargill Health & Nutrition, Wayzata, MN.

Inulin and oligofructose offer an additional benefit: prebiotic fiber — “an extra measure of defense against obesity and diabetes,” said Joseph O’Neill, executive vice-president, sales and marketing, BENEO, Inc., Morris Plains, NJ.

As food is digested, the body releases substances that foster satiety. One is cholecystokinin (CCK), a hormone. For example, Slendesta from Kemin Health, Des Moines, IA, acts as a protein inhibitor II (PI2). “In the small intestine, it releases CCK into the bloodstream,” explained Diane

Alexander, PhD, technical service manager, Kemin Health. “It helps you feel more satisfied with a smaller meal,” she said.

“There is interest in using this in functional foods like granola bars, chews and powdered drink sticks for bottled waters,” Dr. Alexander continued. “There are many ingredients out there that make their claims with anecdotal support, but Slendesta has science behind it.”

ADM’s soluble fiber, Fibersol-2, delays post-meal hunger and increases specific satiety hormones peptide YY (PYY) and glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1).

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) involves a different weight management mechanism. CLA, an omega-6 polyunsaturated essential fatty acid, blocks lipoprotein lipase, a fat storage enzyme. “CLA also diverts unused fat to muscle cells and activates another enzyme that promotes the burning of fat, especially during exercise,” explained Laura Troha, marketing manager, Cognis Nutrition & Health, BASF, La Grange, IL. “Cognis’ Tonalin CLA offers bakery and snack manufacturers a versatile, easy-to-formulate ingredient to reduce fat and maintain muscle.”


The 2010 DGA describe fiber as a “nutrient of concern” because it is underconsumed in American diets. Marilyn Stieve, business development manager, flax, Glanbia Nutritionals, Madison, WI, pointed out that daily intake of 25 g of fiber is necessary to maintain well-being. A variety of cereal and vegetable fibers are available to enhance the fiber content of foods.

Plenty of evidence exists in food consumption data and clinical studies showing an inverse relationship between fiber and obesity. Dr. Maningat said, “A recent epidemiological study among US college students concluded that those ingesting the least fiber tended to be the most obese.”

MGP Ingredients’ Fibersym RW, a RS4-type resistant wheat starch, attenuates blood glucose when consumed as a drink and blunts blood glucose and insulin responses when consumed as a nutritional bar, according to Dr. Maningat.

“Various soluble fibers like polydextrose may prolong the intestinal phase of nutrient digestion and absorption — increasing interaction with pre-absorptive satiation and satiety mechanisms,” said Angelica Horst Von Thadden, director, regional business - Americas, Danisco, New Century, KS.

Dana Craig, marketing manager, Cargill Texturizing Systems, Wayzata, MN, reported that Cargill’s ActiStar RT starch is a virtually invisible source of dietary fiber, allowing high inclusion levels with few formulation changes while maintaining a desirable finished texture.

Her colleague, Ms. Schulz also described Cargill’s Oliggo-Fiber inulin as a prebiotic fiber that is “invisible” in formulating. “It can be added to food to increase the fiber content without impacting taste or texture in most application,” she said.

Barley Balance, concentrated barley beta-glucans, from SunOpta, provides soluble fiber in food applications and enhances satiety, according to Cathy Peterson, group vice-president, applications and technical services, SunOpta Ingredients, Chelmsford, MA. A recent study reported that the gut hormone PYY increased when beta-glucan-enriched bread was consumed. She also observed that SunOpta’s range of insoluble fibers adds bulk to formulations, increases the time to chew and boosts satiety.

While flax may be best known for its ALA omega-3 content, it has significant fiber content, 28%, according to Ms. Stieve. “Flaxseed contains mucilage gum within its insoluble fiber network,” she added.

Glanbia Nutritionals offers OptiSol 5000, an all-natural flax-based ingredient that optimizes formulations and yields in a range of applications, including breads, sweet baked goods, tortillas and pasta.


Protein addition can delay feelings of hunger. Roman Blahoski, media relations manager, ADM, Decatur, IL, noted that foods containing soy protein have been found as effective in weight maintenance as those containing other protein sources. He pointed out a 2010 review of legumes, including cooked dried beans, that indicated their beneficial effects on both short-term satiety and weight loss.

SunOpta’s Soy Supreme Okara, a spray-dried soymilk made from whole soybeans, is high in fiber and protein. “It binds with water and keeps products moist with less fat,” said Fransiska Anderson, product development manager, SunOpta Grains & Food Group, Hope, MN.

Protein extracts and green tea extract offer formulating options, according to Mr. Pfefer. The green tea extract contains epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which increases thermogenesis, the oxidation of nutrients to release heat in the body. “Converting some of the dietary calories to heat prevents them from being stored as fat,” Mr. Pfefer said. He also described a purified potato protein extract that Caravan Ingredients incorporates into its Nutrivan custom pre-mixes.

Another is stevia, extracted from Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni leaves. “It is up to 400 times sweeter than sugar, so a little goes a long way,” said Jason Hecker, vice-president, global marketing, PureCircle USA, Inc., Oak Brook, IL.

Recent research, quoted by Jean?Michel Cohen, PhD, MD, advisory board member, Global Stevia Institute, found stevia may be similar to table sugar in creating satiety. He noted that participants in the study reported similar levels of hunger and satiety regardless of the sweetener used. Also, participants did not compensate by eating more, he said.

Pharmachem, Kearny, NJ, markets a line of hunger, carb and sugar controllers, combinations of active ingredients such as palm and oat oils, white bean extract, and L-arabinose and chromium. The flowable powders can be formulated into a variety of foods. Hunger control is achieved in the small intestine via the “ileal brake.” “Food moves more slowly through a person’s digestive system, and they feel full for a longer period of time,” explained Greg Drew of Pharmachem Laboratories.


“Reduced- and low-calorie products are important tools for achieving a pleasant and tasteful diet that also cuts calories,” Mr. O’Neill said. “The objective, of course, is to reduce total calorie intake, so consumers need to learn that eating a lower calorie product does not mean that they can eat more of it.”

He described the BENEO line of sugar replacers that enable preparation of low-glycemic foods. Isomalt, at 2 Cal per g, replaces sugar at 4 Cal per g yet has a similar sweetening profile, making it appropriate for use in baked foods. The company’s Palatinose isomaltulose is a fully digestible carbohydrate and provides the full carbohydrate energy (4 Cal per g). Also, it has a synergistic effect with fat. “For instance, various studies have already established that BENEO’s isomaltulose helps increase the proportion of energy derived from fat in overall energy consumption,” he added.

Although zero-calorie sweeteners don’t make claims associated with satiety, they can assist development of products that will satisfy sweetness without added calories. “When paired with the appropriate bulking agent, Cargill’s Truvia rebiana can do a nice job of reducing sugar and calories,” said Ralf Loeffelholz, commercial manager, Truvia, Cargill Health & Nutrition. “Snack foods are a perfect target for reducing added dietary sugars, particularly in the diet of children and teens.”

Fat replacement is another property of many dietary fibers. Citri-Fi from Fiberstar, a functional fiber derived from orange pulp, can replace oil and fat — and their calories — while maintaining taste and texture. “Citri-fi’s amorphous cell structure allows texture and mouthfeel similar to fats,” said Brock Lundberg, vice-president of technology, Fiberstar, River Falls, WI. It binds with oil or fat in addition to water to achieve up to 50% replacement of formula fat or oil.

“It is not difficult to create low-fat foods,” Mr. O’Neill said, “but it is a real challenge to create fat-reduced food products that feel and taste as attractive as the full-fat versions.”

Read More on the Subject:
Into the future of weight management
Ingredients for weight management, part 1 with Dave Pfefer, product manager, enrichment/fortification blends, Caravan Ingredients
Ingredients for weight management, part 2 with Ody Maningat, PhD, vice-president of applications technology and technical services, MGP Ingredients
Ingredients for weight management, part 3 with Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager, nutrition, National Starch Food Innovation
Ingredients for weight management, part 4 with Joseph O’Neill, executive vice-president of sales and marketing, BENEO Inc.