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Gut microbiome supplement could reduce food cravings

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Newly developed powdered food supplement affects how the gut microbiome works potentially resulting in reduced cravings for highly calorific foods.

A team of researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Glasgow have produced evidence of how a supplement derived from a natural product of the digestive process can help reduce appetite. Known as inulin-propionate ester, the supplement increases production of propionate, a short-chain fatty acid that is known to play a role in governing appetite.

A previous study by the same team demonstrated that increasing propionate levels in the gut could help prevent weight gain, but could not explain why. 

In the new study, 20 healthy normal weight participants were given a milkshake that contained either the supplement, or just the inulin fibre it was derived from. Then using an MRI machine their responses to images of food were recorded and mapped. 

The team discovered that, when shown images of high calorie content food, participants who consumed the supplement had decreased activity in those areas of the brain linked to food cravings. When asked to rate how appealing the foods were, those who had taken the supplement rated the high calorie foods as less appealing.

In a further test, participants were given a meal and told to eat as much as they wanted. Those who had drunk the supplement shake ate ten percent less than those who had not.

Dr Tony Goldstone, senior co-author argues that these results ‘show that altering how the gut works can change not only appetite in general, but also change how the brain responds when they see high-calorie foods’. 

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