When I hear the term “diet supplement,” I tend to think of the types of pills the government banned because truckers were using them to drive from Toledo to Grand Junction without any sleep. But British scientists believe they’ve found a new type of diet supplement – one that works without the dizzying high of stimulants – that’s able to cut junk food cravings by increasing a natural activity in our gut.
The findings come from a team of researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow working with an ingredient called inulin-propionate ester. According to an article from Imperial College London, this ingredient causes bacteria in the gut to release larger amounts of propionate – a molecule that helps inform the brain that you’ve had enough to eat – compared to when people consume plain-old inulin, a type of dietary fiber. Both inulin and inulin-propionate ester trigger propionate production, but the latter supplement boosts production by 2.5 times.
To prove the effectiveness of cutting food consumption by using this supplement, scientists tried two experiments. In the first, volunteers were given either a milkshake that contained inulin-propionate ester or a control milkshake that contained only inulin. While undergoing an MRI scan, participants who had consumed the inulin-propionate ester drink showed less activity in the part of their brains associated with food cravings, but only when looking at high calorie foods such as chocolate, cake and pizza. These same volunteers also rated high-calorie foods as less appealing. In a second experiment, when given a bowl of pasta and told to eat as much as they like, participants who had consumed the supplement-spiked shake ate 10 percent less than those who only had the inulin shake.
“Our previous findings showed that people who ate this ingredient gained less weight – but we did not know why,” said Gary Frost, the study’s senior author. “This study is filling in a missing bit of the jigsaw—and shows that this supplement can decrease activity in brain areas associated with food reward at the same time as reducing the amount of food they eat.”
Another researcher, Claire Byrne, said that, in general, propionate production may be behind people’s varying weights: Some people may naturally produce more of the compound than others. Sounds like some people may just have “lazy guts.” And if these findings are correct this supplement may just send those stomachs to boot camp.