Healthy living * Weight loss

Seaweed may help fight obesity

Zone default image Cuts fat absorption

Seaweed could help fight the UK's obesity epidemic, say scientists who have found it can reduce the amount of fat absorbed by the body by up to 75%.

A team of scientists from Newcastle University found that a natural fibre in sea kelp called alginate stops the body from absorbing fat better than most anti-obesity treatments currently available over the counter.

"There are countless claims about miracle cures for weight loss but only a few cases offer any sound scientific evidence to back up these claims," said Dr Iain Brownlee, who led the research.

The team used an artificial gut to test the effectiveness of more than 60 different natural fibres by measuring the amount of fat that was digested and absorbed with each treatment.

Alginate from kelp were found to "significantly reduce fat digestion."

Now researchers are adding seaweed fibre to bread to see if they can develop foods that help you lose weight while you eat them.

"This suggests that if we can add the natural fibre to products commonly eaten daily - such as bread, biscuits and yoghurts – up to three quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body," said Dr Brownlee.

"We have already added the alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging," he added.

When the researchers added the alginate to bread as part of a blind taste test, the seaweed bread scored higher for texture and richness than a standard white loaf.

"Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet."

With around a quarter of the UK population now obese, incorporating alginate into our everyday foods may be one way to help people who find it difficult to stick to diet and exercise routines.

"These initial findings suggest alginates could offer a very real solution in the battle against obesity," Dr Brownlee said.

This article was published on Mon 22 March 2010

Image © Robert Taylor -

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