The discovery of a surprising interaction that helps break down fat could open the way to slowing down fat digestion and create food structures that trigger satiety.
Scientists from the Institute of Food Research have conducted several experiments where they used protein layers to stabilize emulsions, thus slowing down fat digestion.
Dr Peter Wilde from the IFR, part of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, said that most fat from processed foods is found in an emulsion-form, like for soups, yoghurt, mayonnaise and ice cream.
This is why researchers thought of “unpicking the mechanisms of digestion used to break them down so [we] can design fats in a rational way that are digested more slowly.”
For this study, scientists discovered that a normally-stable whey protein can be partly broken down, if it is associated with an emulsion.
The introduction of a surface-active substance triggers a synergy with the fat and it helps break down the protein layer in a more efficient way.
Finally, with the protein barrier weakened, it is easier for the enzymes and bile salts to break down fat, reports AlphaGalileo.
The point is that, if the fat digestion is slowed down and the fatty acids can reach the ileum - the terminal portion of the small intestine extending from the jejunum to the cecum – then they can stimulate hormones that give the sensation of satiety.
Dr Wilde said that they “are now experimenting with heat and enzyme treatments to reduce the synergistic effect and make the protein barrier stronger.”
This research is the only one that is analyzing the exact mechanisms of emulsion behavior under different conditions with the purpose of finding out the way the body digests them and how they can be used to control satiety, and thus hunger.
The current research is funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and by the European Union through a Marie Curie Fellowship.