Feeling Full – Ingredient Innovations Can Help Dieters Get Past Hunger Pangs

Say the word diet and what comes to mind. Hunger? Deprivation? Starvation? As anyone trying to lose weight knows, the road to a slimmer physique is an intense struggle. As portions decrease and the diet composition changes, bodies respond with hunger pains and loud stomach rumbles, and alleviating some of these unfortunate weight loss symptoms can be challenging. However, nutritional research is leading the way in developing functional foods that curb appetites and increase satiety. Here are a few product development strategies food scientists should consider when formulating functional foods for weight control.

Of the three major food macronutrients-proteins, fats, carbohydrates-protein is the clear leader in promoting satiety and reducing hunger. Most nutritional studies on protein and satiety involve the consumption of a carefully portioned meal with different amounts of protein. After the meal, participants provide subjective satiety ratings at various time intervals. The vast majority of these studies show that protein consumption significantly increased satiety scores when compared to the same amount of another macronutrient such as carbohydrate or fat. Of particular importance is the form of protein consumed. Solid foods high in protein have an established record of increasing satiety where as liquid protein sources have not demonstrated this benefit.

Protein Sources: Whey, Eggs, Lupin

Sources of high quality protein for managing hunger include whey proteins, eggs, and lupin. Whey proteins are an excellent source of high-quality, relatively inexpensive protein. Whey proteins can reduce short-term food intake and enhance satiety. Products like Quaker Weight Control instant oatmeal use whey proteins to control hunger and build lean muscle mass. To keep calories low, this product relies on sucralose and acesulfame potassium for sweetness. Fiber levels are also elevated with each serving of oatmeal providing 6 grams of dietary fiber per serving.

Eggs constitute another strong candidate for controlling hunger and reducing food intake. In one study comparing a breakfast based on eggs versus a bagel, the egg-based breakfast resulted in higher satiety scores and reduced immediate food intake. Jimmy Dean, a brand known for its wide assortment of egg-based breakfast products, recently introduced D-lights Breakfast Sandwiches, a lighter version of their frozen breakfast sandwiches. With one-third fewer calories and one-half the fat of regular sandwiches, these new products are a convenient option for consumers who want a high protein egg-based breakfast without excess calories and fat. Instead of high-fat meats, whole eggs, and white flour, these slimmed down sandwiches rely on egg whites and lean meats for protein and whole grain muffins for fiber.

Lupin Has Good Potential

Lupin kernel flour derived from the endosperm of lupin is a relatively new ingredient that may have applications as a high-protein, high-fiber partial replacement for flour in baked goods and pasta. Compared with traditional white bread, lupin-enriched breads increase satiety scores and decrease energy intakes. Lupins have an excellent nutritional profile with protein levels similar to soybeans but sith more fiber and less fat. Lupins also have low levels of starch, affording this grain a very low glycemic index.

Adding dietary fiber to foods is another option for developing satisfying products with fewer calories. Foods rich in fiber require more time to chew and process. High-fiber foods expand in the stomach, resulting in feelings of fullness. In addition to filling the stomach, soluble fibers such as glucans, pentoses, and most food gums appear to slow the movement of digested food through the intestinal tract. This delay affords the body additional time to develop and prolong satiety signals. Insoluble fibers such as cellulose and lignin may also provide some benefits as bulking agent in the stomach. To enhance fiber content, food developers should consider adding whole grain cereals, isolated dietary fibers, fruits, and vegetables to enhance fiber content. General Mills Fiber One brand of cereals, snack bars, and yogurts deliver from 20 to 57 percent of an individual’s daily value of fiber. Inulin is the primary fiber source for the yogurts and snack bars, while the cereals are enriched with fiber from whole grains and cereal bran.

Reducing Energy Density

Another strategy for managing hunger and weight focuses on reducing the energy density (the number of calories per gram of food (kcal/g)) of foods. According to Rolls et al (2005), reducing the energy density of foods allows consumers to eat the same satisfying volume of food while limiting caloric intake. This strategy relies on the incorporation of low-calorie, high-fiber ingredients such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into the diet with the overall goal of lowering the calories per serving of a given food. In combination with reducing fat content, this approach can dramatically reduce calories for the same serving size of food.

Food manufacturers can apply this technique to a wide range of foods such as soups, frozen entrees, and refrigerated foods. General Mills uses this approach for their brand of 100-calorie Progresso soups. Each of their 32 varieties of soup has 100 calories or less per serving. Another example of this strategy is Lean Cuisine’s adding to its frozen entrées product line five varieties of with twice the vegetables as the average Lean Cuisine entree.

Although nutritional science is a long way away from understanding precisely how food intake influences satiety and hunger, the approaches listed above represent sensible and practical strategies to create functional foods for weight control and maintenance. Many of these approaches require the addition of expensive perishable ingredients, and this cost will inevitably result in higher prices for weight control products. Ultimately, it is the consumers who will decide whether food products that suppress hunger are worth the cost to the pocketbook.