New Breed of Weight-Loss Foods

America's obsession with its waistline has made the food industry pay closer attention to a new breed of diet- and weight-friendly foods.

By Kantha Shelke, Ph.D.

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Fabuless (once called Olibra and Reducal) is a DSM ingredient that targets weight control from the satiety direction. The emulsion of oat and palm oils is designed so the large quantity of polar lipids in the oat oil extract coat palm oil droplets and prevent digestion until it reaches the small intestine. The undigested fat is interpreted as a signal that the body has had enough food, suppressing the hunger signals.

Another ingredient category propelled into the satiety spotlight is fiber. Kimmo Lucas, president and CEO, Cevena Bioproducts Inc, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, focused on fiber effect on body fat levels and weight loss. Increased satiety, reduced energy intake and loss of weight associated with high fiber diets are reasons enough for processors to seek Cevena's Viscofiber and its claims of "supports weight loss maintenance," "assists with weight loss by moderating glucose absorption," "lowers glycemic response," "provides a sensation of satiety when taken prior to meals," and "helps you feel full and more satisfied."

Inulin and oligofructose ingredients from Orafti, Malvern, Pa., can also enhance the fiber content of foods for satiety. Orafti food and nutrition specialist Hilary Hursh, R.D., cites recent research findings that increasing fiber is an effective part of a healthy weight loss/weight maintenance plan for practically every demographic. Consumer awareness of fiber has gained popularity as consumers realize how satiating fiber can be.

Recent research by Janine Higgins, Ph.D., instructor at the Department of Pediatrics, The Childrens' Hospital, Denver, highlights the benefits of fiberlike resistant starch. Studies show resistant starches such as Bridgewater, N.J.-based National Starch Food Innovation's (www.resistantstarch.com) popular Hi-maize triggers metabolic reactions in the distal gastrointestinal tract that play key roles in switching on the satiety feedback loop for hunger control.

Not many dietary fibers make it to this part of the g.i.tract; soluble fibers are fermented in the colon and insoluble fibers can't trigger the same process. Natural resistant starch, however, by arriving intact at this far end of the digestive system, play an important role in elevating the genetic expression of the two peptides, which in turn, help the consumer feel full longer.

Calories and Convenience

ConAgra Foods, Omaha, Neb., is approaching the 20-year mark in the health and wellness category. In 1988 the company launched Healthy Choice to meet the growing consumer demand for higher standards for taste, convenience and nutrition. Today, the line has more than 200 products and some 70 different menu choices in meals alone. ConAgra created a variety of other brands, such as Egg Beaters, Life Choice and Golden Cuisine, designed to meet individualized nutrition needs.

ConAgra strives to make its weight-management products personally relevant. According to Regina DeMars, company spokeswoman, "Weight management is important for leading a healthy life, but there is a difference between dieting to lose weight and eating the right foods to reach and maintain an optimal weight."

ConAgra relies on a combination of fiber and portion control to provide satiety. For example, in its Healthy Choice Soup varieties, the soups are a good source of fiber, contain 110 calories or fewer and are low in fat. The Lightlife line of soy-based vegetarian foods and meat analogs goes a healthy step further, containing no artificial colors, preservatives or monosodium glutamate and includes such popular items as Smart Pretzel Dog and Smart Tortilla Wraps.

Some processors have shown insight in recognizing weight-management isn't just calorie reduction. Nature's Path, Richmond, British Columbia, has enjoyed great success with its Optimum Slim cereal. The key is its high fiber content - 11 g. per serving. But that it has great flavor, avoiding much of the negative mouthfeel typical to other high-fiber products, is what makes it work for consumers.

Sweetness options

Note to Marketing

Important principles for marketing weight control/friendly foods and beverages accurately present characteristics including taste, size, and content, along with nutrition and health benefits. Do not mislead.

  • Support benefit claims with sound scientific evidence.
  • Neither encourage nor condone excess consumption.
  • Portray foods as a part of meals and in context of a balanced diet.
  • Food not intended to substitute for meals should not be represented as such.
  • Do not exaggerate potential benefits or imply associated.

Low calories sweeteners experienced a resurgence in popularity as researchers crack the code on better tasting, better for you sugar analogs.

The low-calorie food and beverage stables rely mostly on the four artificial sweeteners approved for use in foods by FDA: saccharin, acesulfame K, aspartame and sucralose. These ingredients owe their success to their ability to match the sweetness profile of sugar.

Saccharin and acesulfame K contain no calories and are not metabolized by the body. Sucralose is similar, but a fraction is metabolized. Aspartame, on the other hand, acts like a protein and is metabolized in the body.

Polyols, or sugar alcohols, work well as sugar replacers and are often used in different blends for baking purposes. Hydrogenated maltose produces a polyol called maltitol that is about 90 percent as sweet as sugar and is noncariogenic. And unlike sugar, it does not quickly raise glucose blood-sugar levels.

For food processors, polyols offer a wide range of possibilities since no sweetener alone can deliver the taste and functionality of sucrose. Polyols can effectively replace sugars in various applications and range in functionality from bulking agents to high-intensity sweeteners. Blending allows for selective functionalities and taste adjustments.

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