New Meal Replacement Drink Reduces Hunger


A new experimental meal replacement drink reduced hunger in volunteers by nearly one-third, according to a study conducted in The Netherlands. The “secret” ingredient in the drink is called alginate, a type of dietary fiber.

Alginate helps fill you up, not out

Alginate is a substance found in the cell walls of brown algae as well as in seaweeds known as kelps and wracks. It is widely used in foods, medicine, and supplements as a thickener, emulsifier, stabilizer, and binder.

As a natural cellulose, alginate can reduce cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar in the blood. Previous research from investigators at Newcastle University suggests alginate can significantly reduce the amount of fat the body absorbs.

A research team led by Harry Peters, a manager-scientist of Unilever Research & Development in Vlaardingen, The Netherlands, designed a meal replacement beverage that contains the gelling fiber in a quantity that seems to taste good, is pleasant to drink, and also reduces hunger while helping people achieve satiety (feeling full).


One way to increase satiety is to promote the formation of gels, like alginate, in the stomach. However, the study’s authors noted that “the viscosity of drinks needs to be high to increase satiety, and this may reduce consumer acceptance for many (e.g., fluid) types of products.”

To tackle this problem, the scientific team developed a low-viscosity, chocolate-flavored meal replacement shake using 0.6 percent and 0.8 percent alginate. The alginate was designed to transform into a gel only after the drink was consumed and not in the glass, which makes it more palatable.

Using a crossover design, the 23 volunteers drank 10 ounces of either the 0.6 percent or 0.8 percent alginate drink (190 calories) in place of a meal while controls drank the shake without the added alginate. During the five hours after consuming the drink, all the participants reported how hungry and how full they felt.

When compared with the controls, volunteers who consumed the 0.8 percent alginate shake said they were less hungry (20-30% less) and felt fuller (34%). Those who drank the 0.6 percent shake also reported feeling less hungry and having better satiety than controls.

The authors believe the new meal replacement drink can “decrease hunger responses at relatively low alginate levels.” More studies are necessary to determine how this formula can help people with weight loss efforts and in weight maintenance.

Newcastle University news release
Peters HPF et al. Obesity 2011; DOI:10.1038/oby.2011.63