Gel May Curb Appetite, Help Weight Loss and Obesity


Would you take a substance that could curb your appetite and thus help with weight loss and the fight against obesity? Well, don’t take out your wallet just yet, but scientists have developed a gel that helps curb appetite, and it could be ready in the not-too-distant future.

The weight loss market is huge, and it continues to grow despite the ongoing downturn in the economy. According to Markets and Markets, a global market research and consulting company, the worldwide weight management market was about $363 billion in the United States in 2009 and is estimated to reach $586 billion in 2014. Although weight loss can be achieved by reducing calorie intake and exercising regularly, most people look for help through weight loss products and programs.

A four-scientist team at Birmingham University in the United Kingdom may have a unique answer to the desire to over indulge and pack on the pounds. They have developed an aqueous solution that transforms into a solid in the stomach, which then helps to curb appetite. The four-year project is being indirectly financed by several big food manufacturers and retailers who are interested in the development of potentially health-enhancing products.

According to Dr. Fotis Spyropoulos, one of the research team members, interest by food manufacturers “means that one or more of these companies see potential for future commercial application.” He notes that in two or three years, the scientists will want “to establish collaborations to market what might be a solution that could be mixed with milk and poured over breakfast cereal to keep you feeling full until lunchtime,” or some type of beverage that could fight the urge to snack.


Although it may seem strange that food companies would want to invest in products that curb appetite, Dr. Spyropoulos notes that they acknowledge they “have to keep consumers happy in all sorts of ways. It comes down to offering a choice.” The gel is part of an effort to help reinforce healthy eating habits and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight.

The scientists have developed a hydrocolloid, a substance that turns into a gel soon after it reaches the stomach and contacts the acidic environment. The goal is to make people feel fuller for longer, thus suppressing the desire to eat between meals. Spyropoulos notes that they need to work on how long the suppressant should last and how to get the gel to release energy slowly.

To help them understand if there is a psychological rather than a physical need to snack, the scientists are also utilizing the help of two PhD psychology students who will study consumer habits. If the urge to snack is psychological, “then maybe we should be looking to offer a healthier alternative, something that looks and tastes like chocolate, but isn’t chocolate,” says Spyropoulos.

Ultimately, the appetite suppressing gel will need to taste good so consumers will enjoy it and keep using it. Then the result, hopefully, will be weight loss, an effective tool against obesity, and a healthier population.

The Guardian, Jan. 19, 2010
Markets and Markets website