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Eat less, feel full

10 Jan, 2011

Source: Plant & Food Research

New Zealand scientists are working to identify foods that can prevent us from overeating.

Did you know that our stomachs send signals to our brains telling us when to stop eating?

Over the next 6 years, scientists at Plant & Food Research, the University of Auckland and Massey University will be identifying foods that can prevent us from overeating by manipulating these natural signalling processes.

Scientists call it satiety – the feeling of being full.

For years, nutritionists have encouraged people to eat more low glycemic index (GI) foods including fruits, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains, which slow down the release of glucose (energy) into the body and can keep us from feeling hungry for longer.

The Foods for Appetite Control project is looking beyond these simple nutritional effects on appetite by investigating how compounds in fruits, vegetables and wholegrains interact with sensory mechanisms in our stomachs to help curb our appetite.

The stomach has a range of sensory cells including cells containing taste receptors (the same receptors found on our tongues) to sense what type of nutrients are present in food and where in the stomach they are. Some types of foods and specific natural plant compounds seem to be better at activating these sensory cells, causing them to release hormones that change the digestion process and signal to appetite control centres in the brain.

The scientists are trying to identify compounds in the food that send feedback to the brain to keep people feeling fuller for longer.

Many of these compounds are found in plants including fruit, vegetables and grains. The project hopes to identify New Zealand-sourced fruits, vegetables and wholegrains to give our food producers a niche in the $513 billion global weight management foods industry.

The idea is to identify food components that target sensory mechanisms at different levels of the stomach to enhance short-, medium- and long-term appetite control. The goal is to keep us feeling full for up to 4 hours after eating. The scientists may even be able to keep us from snacking between meals!

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