Researchers at the Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) at the University of Copenhagen have established that dietary fibers from brown algae boosts the body’s sensation of satiety, so that people eat less and lose more weight.

Earlier studies have demonstrated that a fiber-rich diet is easier for maintaining weight. Researchers at the University of Copenhagen have now discovered in a new PhD project that alginates (dietary fibers) from brown algae, are superb at creating an ‘artificial feeling of fullness’ in the stomach.

Scientists have categorized the numerous different types of seaweed into three main groups, such as brown algae (Phaephycecae), red algae (Rhodophyta) and green algae (Chlorophyta). The researchers of this study based their study primarily on palm seaweed fibers obtained from the brown algae.

PhD student Morten Georg Jensen says:

“Over a three-year period, we have studied the effect of taking different alginate doses. We are able to demonstrate that the healthy subjects who took alginates and were also allowed to eat as much as they wanted felt less hungry and ate less than the subjects not drinking fiber drinks with alginates.”

Jensen and his team conducted a 12-week study involving 96 overweight men and women. They assigned 48 participants to consume a specially designed drink containing alginates three times daily before each main course, whilst the other 48 received drinks containing placebo without alginates. The drinks were administered as a supplement to an energy-reduced diet.

They discovered that of the 80 participants who completed the study, those in the alginate group achieved a significantly greater loss of weight loss on average, i.e. 1.7 kg, compared with participants in the placebo group. This weight loss has been primarily achieved because of a reduction in body fat percentage.

Jensen explained:

“A probable explanation of the weight loss is that the alginates form a gel in the stomach which strengthens the gastrointestinal satiety signals to the brain because the gel takes up space in the stomach. The overweight subjects thus ate less than usual.”

Easy 24/7 access to unlimited quantities of energy-rich food is partly responsible for the growing epidemic of obesity. To tackle this problem it is necessary for scientists to conduct more research and develop new dietary measures.

Morten states:

“Eating more than you burn results in a body energy imbalance, which may lead to weight gain in the long term. It is therefore crucial that new dietary measures improve appetite control and limit our food intake.”

The researchers anticipate that their findings may open the doors for new treatment options for those who are overweight. Researchers have developed the special fiber drink containing alginates in collaboration with the biotech company S-biotek, but until now such fiber drinks are not yet available on the market.

Morten Georg Jensen will be presenting his PhD thesis, Effect of alginate fiber supplementation in regulation of appetite, body weight and metabolic risk factors, on Wednesday 14 December 2011 at 1 pm at the Faculty of Life Sciences, lecture hall A1-01.01., Bülowsvej 17, 1870 Frederiksberg C.

Written by Petra Rattue