Optimal food structuring for enhanced satiety

Satiation by a food can be increased by specific structuring that leads to sedimentation of an energy-dense layer in the stomach. This is the outcome of a study within the Top Institute Food and Nutrition by scientists from NIZO food research and IFR. This effect can be used to help consumers to reduce their caloric intake.

Stomach volume and the rate at which the stomach releases nutrients to the small intestine for absorption are important physiological parameters by which the body estimates the time to stop eating. Foods behave differently in the stomach, depending on their structure. If a food in the stomach separates into an energy-poor upper layer and a viscous energy-dense sediment, the energy-dense part is delivered to the small intestine first, keeping the energy-poor liquid layer stacked on top. The volume of the stomach then stays larger for a longer time while at the same time the small intestine signals an influx of high-energy food. In a publication in Food Hydrocolloids, NIZO scientist George van Aken anticipated that this situation, which resembles the situation of the stomach being filled homogeneously with a large volume of energy-dense food, would stimulate satiation.

Now, in their recent study, (published in American Journal of Physiology), van Aken of NIZO and Alan Mackie of IFR tested this prediction by comparing two food systems with closely similar nutrient compositions and caloric content (67% from fat, 27% from protein and 6% from carbohydrates): one that sediments in the stomach and one that remains homogeneous. The foods were made with common ingredients and tested in human volunteers.

The test confirmed the predicted effect on satiation: significant effects towards increased satiation from the sedimenting food system were found from scorings for fullness, hunger, satisfaction and desire to eat. MRI imaging moreover confirmed the expected difference in the volume and distribution of the food in the stomach, and the related release and detection of nutrients in the small intestine was confirmed by blood serum levels of the hormone cholecystokinin (CCK).

According to van Aken, this approach can be applied to a wide range of foodstuffs: “By structuring foods in such a way that an early formation of a viscous sediment of the energy-rich part is promoted, initial stomach emptying is slowed down, satiation is enhanced and food intake can be better controlled. We have many technologies in place to reformulate foods to target this effect and it works with common ingredients.”