Protein supplement may help beat obesity

A special protein supplement eaten before meals could be the key to eating less and losing weight, scientists have suggested.

A team of health and nutrition experts at the Rowett Institute in Aberdeen are looking to develop the supplement – which would make people feel fuller more quickly.

Previous research has found that high-protein meals are better at satisfying appetites, causing the the gut to send "full" messages to the brain.

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Dr Julian Mercer said the aim is now to exploit the finding to help stop people over-eating.

The study is expected to begin next year with the aid of a European grant currently being negotiated.

Obesity, an increasing problem in the UK, is linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers.

The prospect of a protein "pill" comes just a day after researchers suggested fast food outlets could hand out cholesterol-lowering drugs in same way they supply ketchup as a way of combating the effects of fatty food. The cost would be less than 5p per customer – the same as a sachet of ketchup.

The Rowett Institute receives funding from the Scottish Government and elsewhere to develop new approaches to tackling weight control.

Dr Mercer, head of the obesity and metabolic health division, said: "Our studies found previously that the critical component in meals is the protein.

"You can have a fairly moderate carbohydrate component but it's the protein that has the physiological effect of making you feel less hungry.

"You will feel fuller sooner if you have a high-protein meal.

"How does it work? We'd like to identify the biology behind it. Does it matter how much protein you take, when you take it and what form it is in, for example?

"It might be that you could take a sort of supplement before a meal and you would feel fuller sooner."

The scientist, who has worked at the institute for more than 20 years, said the supplement could take the form of a pill or a yoghurt.