In the fight against the obesity crisis – and consumers’ quest to live more healthfully – comes another weapon: foods that boost satiety. Essentially, these are foods composed with certain ingredients that leave consumers feeling fuller longer, or in other words, satisfy hunger longer. Some in the industry have called them the solution to the obesity crisis, while others say they will achieve the same mythical status as “low-fat.” Still others have referred to them as the Holy Grail of Nutrition.
What’s appealing about foods that boost satiety is that they’re a more natural way to control weight. More consumers today are foregoing diet pills, supplements and other extreme measures and are looking for natural and simple alternatives from the foods they eat. A recent study from The NPD Group Inc. confirms this. Called Weighing in on the American Diet, it found that “dieting is at an all-time low” and “feeling healthier is the primary motivator for beginning a diet. Instead of extreme lifestyle changes that cannot be maintained, more Americans seem to be looking for reasonable strategies that help them achieve or maintain a healthy weight.” Consumers don’t want to deprive themselves; they want foods that offer a longer feeling of fullness and which offer a more natural means to control their appetites and cravings.
Foods focused on satiety really began to emerge when news of a global obesity crisis started appearing. In Canada today we’re not doing too badly. Statistics Canada reports in its Canadian Community Health Survey (CCAS) of June 2008 that “The percentage of Canadians who are overweight or obese rose dramatically between 1985 and 1994/1995 but appears to have stabilized more recently. Between 2005 and 2007, rates of both overweight and obesity generally changed little.” But, it adds, “Because of the tendency of respondents to over-report their height and under-report their weight, it is likely that these figures from the CCHS underestimate the actual prevalence of obesity.”
“Obesity, despite the billions of dollars spent on diet aids, diet programs and gym memberships, is still on the increase,” says Robert Kowal, president of Mississauga, Ont.-based Kriscor & Associates. “It slowed a little bit but people are still overweight and obese and it has a lot to do with our diets. The basic equation is calories in equal calories out if you want to maintain your weight. And we just don’t do that.” Kowal’s company looks after the Canadian sales and marketing of Sensus America Inc.’s Frutafit line. The products include Frutafit Inulin (Chicory Root Fibre) and Frutalose Oligofructose, which were approved for use in Canada in 2006, but which have been used in Europe in products for fibre and prebiotic effects for many years. Kowal says preliminary data suggest that both oligofructose and long-chain inulin may enhance satiety.
Sensus’ parent company in The Netherlands has launched a clinical study to determine the effects the Frutafit and Frutalose lines of chicory root fibre have on satiety and weight management, says Scott Turowski, technical sales representative for Sensus America Inc. in Monmouth Junction, N.J. Results of the latest clinical study are expected later this year. “Initial studies have shown that chicory root fibre may positively affect satiety-related hormones, leading to a decrease in daily caloric intake,” he says.
Relatively speaking, positioning foods as inducing satiety and formulating foods so that they induce satiety is all still a new area of exploration for the food industry. And many other companies are carrying out research in this area – National Starch Food Innovation being another. Rhonda Witwer, senior business development manager of Nutrition at Bridgewater, N.J.-based National Starch Food Innovation, says it was always believed that fibre helped you feel fuller longer. But with research they’re finding that “not all fibres are the same in terms of satiety.” She adds that it’s “just like we moved beyond all fat is the same. The different types of fat matter and the different types of fibre matter.”
National Starch Food Innovation produces an ingredient called Hi-maize natural resistant starch, which has been used to increase the fibre in products for 10 years. Witwer says “Hi-maize is insoluble. It is not digested in your stomach or your small intestine. It gets to your large intestine and acts like a fermentable fibre. Independent researchers have found that it’s fermentation that triggers satiety 10 to 14 hours later. Cellulose, another insoluble fibre that is not fermented, did not have any effect on satiety.” The research was called one of the top medical breakthroughs of 2008 by MSN.com and Prevention magazine.
Witwer foresees a day when consumers will be savvy enough to look for specific fibres that give them the effects they seek. “They’re going to look for the benefits that they’re interested in and link them back to the food or ingredient that delivers that benefit.”
Overall Kowal foresees a greater interest in good gut health and as a result a greater interest in satiety foods and its benefits. “The next big trend in my opinion is gut health because people understand or are starting to understand that most of our health issues start with our diet and our intestinal health.”
As Witwer says, “If [consumers] are on a diet plan and they feel hungry, it takes a lot of willpower not to snack when you feel hungry. But if you’re on a different plan where you don’t feel hungry, you’re going to be more successful in reaching your goals. So every angle to help people eat less is going to be helpful. We need all the tools we can get.”