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Cut Calories, Lose Weight with Food Additive

Cut calories, lose weight with food additive

If you're trying to lose weight and find it difficult to cut calories and you feel hungry all the time, help may be on the way. That help is in the form of a food additive that has been around for more than half a century, a white powder called methyl cellulose, but with a 21st century twist.

What is methyl cellulose?

At the 244th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society held in Philadelphia, the results of a proof-of-concept clinical trial were presented, showing that a commonly used food additive, when applied in a new way, could be a boon to weight loss efforts. According to the trial's presenter, Carsten Huettermann, PhD, of Dow Wolff Cellulosics in Bomlitz, Germany, the modified methyl cellulose, SATISFIT-LTG, "would make people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food."

Methyl cellulose is a nontoxic, nondigestible, nonallergenic chemical compound derived from cellulose, a structural component of the cell walls of plants and algae. As an additive to foods and cosmetics, it acts as a thickener and an emulsifier. Methyl cellulose is a white powder that dissolves in cold water, not hot, but it turns into gel when heated.

Many people have concerns about the safety of food additives, and for good reason, as many of them have been found to pose potential or real health hazards. According to the Centers for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy organization, methyl cellulose is considered safe.

Currently methyl cellulose is found in a wide variety of foods, ranging from ice cream to baked products and ready meals. You can also find methyl cellulose in shampoos and toothpaste, powdered laxatives, personal lubricants, nutritional supplements, and in artificial tears.

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The new methyl cellulose
After the successful results obtained from a recent controlled clinical trial, researchers are moving forward on studying how SATISFIT-LTG may have an impact on weight management. In that clinical trial, volunteers who consumed the modified food additive were less hungry when presented with a meal two hours later.

In fact, the study participants who had had SATISFIT-LTG ate 13 percent fewer calories at the meal, even though they were allowed to eat as much as they desired. So what makes the modified food additive different from the "old" methyl cellulose?

Methyl cellulose as a food additive passes through the digestive tract quickly and does not have an effect on satiety (feeling full). The modified methyl cellulose, however, forms a gel at body temperature, and the gel stays in the stomach for a while before it goes to the small intestine, which means individuals feel full longer, reducing their desire to eat more.

Because the modified methyl cellulose mixes well with cold foods, researchers may consider using it to yogurt and smoothies. You won't find the new modified food additive in foods on your grocery shelves yet, so anyone who wants to lose weight will need to cut calories and find other ways to drop those extra pounds for now.

American Chemical Society
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Image: Morguefile