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Food Solutions for Weight Management

Teagasc researchers, as part of the Food for Health Ireland consortium, have been screening for milk-derived proteins that increase satiety as possible functional food ingredients for weight management.

Obesity is a global health concern that has reached epidemic proportions. In Europe alone, the prevalence of obesity has tripled in the last two decades and, coupled with obesity-related illnesses, is now responsible for over 1 million deaths in Europe each year. It is predicted that by 2015 almost 1.5 billion consumers worldwide will be overweight or obese.

Several of the drug-based therapies currently on the market to treat obesity either lack efficacy or have adverse side-effects. There is, therefore, an opportunity to develop food-based alternatives to regulate appetite and to aid in weight management. Teagasc runs an active research programme to identify food solutions for weight management. One of the areas of interest to Teagasc is to develop food ingredients that can target appetite.

Research into the area of appetite control and weight management is primarily focused on promoting satiety. Satiety is the feeling of fullness, which prevents further food intake in the period between meals. The development of food formulations that increase the production and secretion of satiety hormones could have the potential to provide functional ingredients for weight management and appetite control.

The researchers are looking into bovine milk protein-derived hydrolysates as several studies have correlated increased milk and dairy consumption with positive effects on body weight, metabolic control and glycaemia. The main bovine milk proteins are caseins (α, β and κ casein) and whey proteins (α-lactalbumin and β-lactoglobulin).

As part of Teagasc’s programme on food solutions for weight management, Teagasc is an active member of Food for Health Ireland (FHI). This consortium comprises researchers from Teagasc, University College Cork, University College Dublin and University of Limerick, and industry partners Carbery, Kerrygold, Glanbia and Dairygold, and is supported by Enterprise Ireland.

Ongoing work at Teagasc is focused on screening the hydrolysates and fermentates for positive effects on gastrointestinal satiety signalling using a mammalian cell culture model, supported by in vivo trials (in mice and pig models) in conjunction with the FHI team (lead by Professors Ted Dinan and John Cryan) located at the Biosciences Institute at University College Cork and with the Pig Development Unit in Moorepark.

To date, researchers at Moorepark have identified 15 samples which induce satiety hormones in vitro. Out of these 15 samples, two front runners have demonstrated a reduction in food intake in animal models. Although researchers at Teagasc have, thus far, focussed on screening milk fractions, the screening assays developed are applicable to screen any food fraction for satiety. “Teagasc is striving to deliver functional foods that enhance satiety. Ingestion of such foods may reduce portion size and/or meal frequency leading to a reduction in food intake and body weight over time. Food-based alternatives to medical weight management approaches can be more easily adapted into daily eating patterns,” explains Dr Linda Giblin, a researcher at Teagasc Moorepark Food Research Centre