Unilever says new milkshake helps control appetite
A new weight loss drink that tastes like a milkshake significantly reduces appetite and could soon join Unilever’s $400 million Slim-Fast weight-loss brand, the company’s researchers said on Wednesday.
A study showed that the drink, which works by trapping gas in foods to make people feel full, worked even better than the company’s Slim-Fast weight-loss drink, they said.
The researchers, who presented their findings at the 2008 European Congress on Obesity, said the company has patented the technology.
“The technology is now available for the brand to use in future formats,” said David Mela, a Unilever nutritionist who worked on the study. “The food maintains the bulk, much of which is air that helps you maintain that full feeling.”
Obesity is a big problem and big business. About 400 million people are classified as obese, putting them at higher risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases, according to the World Health Organization.
This has in part spurred companies like Unilever, Kraft Foods, General Mills, Sara Lee and others to turn to healthier products with a whole range of so-called health and wellness foods.
“If you look at western populations, a (large number) of adults are overweight,” said Gert Meijer, an executive at Unilever’s research and development division. “In terms of the amount of people who might be interested in this product, it could be huge.”
In the Unilever study, the researchers tested their milkshake on 24 volunteers who were given either the new drink or a serving of regular Slim-Fast at breakfast.
People who had the milkshake reported that they were significantly fuller when asked at different intervals over a four-hour time period. The researchers found that a half-sized serving of the milkshake also suppressed hunger.
“We are clearly talking about hours,” said Sergei Melnikov, a physical chemist who helped develop the technology. “It is an effect that lasts for an hour or two or longer.”
The milkshake is designed to trap gas in the food after consumption, preventing it from dissolving in the mouth as happens with foods like whipped cream, and cutting appetite.
To do this the team engineered the fats, proteins and fibers in the food until reaching the right mix to trap the gas—a technology that might appear in other Unilever foods, the researchers said.
“I would say this is not limited to liquids,” Melnikov said. “It could be used in other food forms.”
By Michael Kahn
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