The breakthrough could be key to beating Britain’s spiralling obesity epidemic.
In its first tests on humans, researchers at Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow found that the supplement is effective at preventing weight gain in overweight volunteers.These exciting findings could at last open up new ways to manipulate gut microbes to improve health and prevent disease. It contains propionate, which stimulates the gut to release hormones that act on the brain to reduce hunger. Propionate is produced naturally when dietary fibre is fermented by microbes in the gut.
After 24 weeks, volunteers given IPE had less fat in their abdomens and livers compared with a comparison group. The findings are published today in the journal Gut.
Professor Gary Frost, of Imperial College London who led the study, said: “We know that adults gain between 0.3 and 0.8 kilos a year on average and there’s a real need for new strategies that can prevent this.
“Molecules like propionate stimulate the release of gut hormones that control appetite but you need to eat huge amounts of fibre to achieve a strong effect. We wanted to find a more efficient way to deliver propionate to the gut.
“You need to eat it regularly to have an effect. We’re exploring what kinds of foods it could be added to but something like bread or fruit smoothies might work well.”
Dr Douglas Morrison, of the University of Glasgow, said: “These exciting findings could at last open up new ways to manipulate gut microbes to improve health and prevent disease.”