Designing Foods for Weight Loss

The key to success in today's complicated world of health and diet appears to be satiety.

By Frances Katz, Senior Technical Editor

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Arndt develops new products that provide whole grains throughout the meal. The patented bread also contains ConAgra's Sustagrain - a waxy barley product that can be used to increase fiber in all kinds of products, including pizza crust, pasta, vegetable patties, rice pilaf, tortillas, cookies and brownies.

Sustagrain also can be used in some beverage applications. It's a companion product to ConAgra's wheat products, including Ultragrain, a white flour with whole grain content. The patent covers a variety of formulations. It should also be noted that ConAgra is the maker of Healthy Choice bread.

Technique follows trend

Much of the interest in the Satiety Index follows interest in the Glycemic Index, which is a recent variation of the low-carb craze. The low-carb trend trend initially moved sales of some foods up by about eight times their normal levels. Sales subsequently leveled off and dropped. But these products changed American attitudes. More consumers are seeking out whole-grain foods, foods with more fiber and lower-calorie products in general.

Following the trend, ingredient producers started to look beyond white flour. To that end, ConAgra, ADM and Cargill produced white flours containing the whole wheat berry. ConAgra's Ultragrain is made from white wheat, microground so the white flour resembles ordinary white flour. ADM's is Kansas Diamond white whole-wheat flour. Cargill's Horizon Milling produces a white wheat flour that can be used to produce a whole-grain loaf.

To boost fiber content, another ConAgra company, Gilroy Foods, introduced a variety of vegetable purees so dense they don't freeze solid and can be measured straight from the freezer. These products can add significant amounts of fiber to products, in addition to antioxidants and flavor. And they can increase satiety.

Other companies, such as Unilever, are focusing on the basic mechanisms of weight control. The company has been working on a metabolic process called the "ileal brake mechanism." This concept, which uses fat capsules and other ingredients to delay fat metabolism until food has reached the lower intestine, fools the body into believing that it isn't hungry.

One type of capsule is described in Unilever's patent for a nutrition bar: "[the] polyunsaturated fatty acid or source thereof is encapsulating prior to inclusion in said bar by forming an emulsion of the unsaturated fatty acid with a carrier, spray-drying the emulsion to form a powder, and encapsulating said powder with an encapsulating agent."

All in the technique

Encapsulation not only protects the fat from oxidation, but is included so that certain metallic ions - often missing in the diet - can be added to the protein-rich bar without triggering oxidation of the fat component.

Another ingredient studied by food companies is resistant starch, which may be made from a variety of starches through chemical means or the use of high-amylose starch. Danone SA has introduced a nutrition bar that uses resistant starch as a means of engaging the ileal brake mechanism.

Formulating for weight loss: Slim-Fast's new high-protein shake
After losing nearly half its Slim-Fast sales during the low-carb craze, Unilever developed a new Slim-Fast line with a heavy emphasis on satiety.

One such starch is described by National Starch Food Innovation in a February 2006 patent application: "The present invention relates to chemically modified starches, which, when properly formulated into foods or taken as a supplement, may be used to provide the consumer with more constant blood glucose (prevent/minimize acute elevation) levels over an extended time period (corresponding to the time the material is in the stomach/small intestine) than would be possible with other types of starches."

National Starch already is experiencing success with its Hi-maize resistant starch from corn, which can replace about 25 percent of flour in bakery formulations. Such starches and foods containing these starches will help consumers regulate and maintain normal and healthy blood glucose levels.

Another effect often associated with acute elevation and rapid swings in blood glucose levels is the inability to control and maintain body weight. Insulin, which plays many roles in the body, is active in the conversion of glucose to fats. Insulin resistance - the state of needing higher levels of serum insulin to metabolize the same level of glucose - is thought by some to be a cause, not an effect, of weight gain, as the increased insulin levels facilitate unnecessary fat storage.

Experts have long recommended eating multiple small meals over the course of a day to attempt to regulate blood glucose (and the corresponding energy supply) at a constant level. Additionally, rapidly falling blood glucose levels (which normally happen after an acute elevation) have been shown to trigger long-term stimulation of appetite in healthy adults.

Alternatively, research indicates glucose release over an extended time leads to benefits, which may include increased satiety for longer periods (valuable for weight management issues), sustained energy release for enhanced athletic performance and improved mental concentration and memory.

Multiple routes to success

As major companies have learned more about the mechanisms that produce a feeling of satiety, they've used different routes to reach the overall goal of getting a bigger piece of the diet food pie. With such a large number of people concerned about (or needing to be concerned about) overweight, the prize is to wrest food sales from mainstream products.

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