Seaweed finding may turn tide against fat

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Fat-busting seaweed could be the future of slimming after the discovery of a natural seaweed fibre that prevents the body absorbing fat.

Alginate, found in sea kelp, reduces the activity of the digestive enzyme, pancreatic lipase, leading to less fat being absorbed in the gut.

Lead scientist Professor Jeff Pearson, from the University of Newcastle’s Institute for Cell and Molecular Biosciences, said: “We have already added alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging.

“Now the next step is to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet.”

The researchers found that alginates containing more of a sugar molecule called guluronate were best at blocking fat digestion.

They compiled a list of the most promising seaweeds, including a brown sea kelp known as “tangle” or “cuvie”, bladderwrack, and bull kelp.

The findings, published in the journal Food Chemistry, showed that a four-fold increase in one type of tangle alginate boosted anti-fat absorption activity by 75 per cent.

The researchers say that the seaweed’s dietary fibre avoided the unpleasant side effects of conventional anti-obesity drugs which are used to inhibit enzyme activity.

They wrote: “The inclusion of an alginate into foods.. has the potential to reduce the intake of dietary triacylglycerol (fat) and could greatly help in weight management.”