How to complement the consumer’s healthy diet and lifestyle.

What exactly are weight management foods? This question is best answered by stating what these foods are not.

They are not foods formulated for calorie-restricted diets, and thus are not intended for the obese who are trying to lose weight. They are not necessarily low-fat or low-calorie products-but they could be. Nor are they portion controlled, i.e., “100-calorie packs.” Further, they are not bizarre items that require an effort to add them to one’s daily diet.

“Such products should complement a do-it-yourself approach to weight management. They should support the consumer’s healthy diet and lifestyle, rather than forcing them to change their habits,” says Julian Mellentin, author of the recently published New Nutrition Business report entitled: Trends & Strategies in Weight Management: Ten Key Case Studies.

Mellentin emphasizes that weight management products should appeal primarily to people who are only slightly overweight and are trying to manage their weight, not to the obese. This is an entirely different product sector.

“While some consumers will be drawn to weight management foods and beverages because they are seriously overweight, evidence is accumulating that the larger part of the market-and the ideal target market for new products-are healthy people with a small and manageable weight problem. In all markets these healthy people will form the bulk of consumers for weight management products,” says Mellentin.

So then, what do weight management foods and beverages do? They must satisfy. They satisfy sensory cravings (smell, taste, texture and mouthfeel), appetite and nutritional requirements. This satisfaction assists with preventing consumers from snacking their way to obesity. It is one of many strategies that can help consumers eat fewer calories and in so doing, achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.

The predecessor to obesity

“Excess body weight is a growing problem around the world,” says Mellentin. “In Europe and America, while consumers continue to think about their weight, they have become disillusioned by diets focused on what they can’t eat-or offering products that don’t taste good-and are hungry for a different solution. A clear trend in these markets is the decline of the concept of dieting and the rise of weight management as a component of a broader healthy lifestyle.

“The market is currently in an embryonic and experimental phase. Companies are wrestling with how to successfully create, price, position and market a weight management brand,” says Mellentin. “Companies with huge resources at their disposal in terms of science and marketing are trying a wide array of possible ingredients and approaches to best address the issue.

“Further, companies are naturally cautious about an area where consumer expectations are likely to be high, where there are regulatory issues relating to what can be claimed and where choosing an active ingredient whose benefit can be substantiated to the satisfaction of regulators isn’t always easy,” Mellentin says.

There are three types of product concepts in the weight management food and beverage category. Products can be formulated to accelerate calorie burning or fat burning, with the two often one and the same. Foods can be formulated to be low in calories and assist with reducing daily intake. The third concept is products designed to induce satiety, in other words, to increase the feeling of fullness.

Understanding how to control appetite

Controlling appetite is related to food intake regulation, a complex physiological system that involves numerous communications between the gastrointestinal tract and the brain. This is different from food consumption patterns, which are influenced not only by physiology, but also by psychological and societal aspects. Hence, controlling appetite is just one aspect to be considered when developing strategies to help consumers eat fewer calories.

NIZO Food Research B.V., The Netherlands, combines food technology with a scientific understanding of digestive physiology to design foods and beverages that can assist with appetite control. This independent research institute, which has its roots in dairy and still dedicates almost half of its resources to dairy research, has identified four satiety-focused approaches to assist with weight management.

“The first approach is to design foods that use flavors or aromas as triggers to limit food intake,” says Joost Overduin, product manager for satiety and weight management at NIZO. “NIZO’s state-of-the-art olfactometer allows scientists to administer aroma profiles separately from other food stimuli such as ingredients, textures and tastes. We then can investigate the relative importance of aroma stimuli on satiety.

“During these tests, subjects record their feelings of hunger, fullness, satiety, desire to eat and thirst,” Overduin says. “In addition, energy intake and modulation of satiety hormones can be measured.”

Another approach involves understanding the impact of food components on gastrointestinal transit, stomach distension and stomach emptying. “By altering the physical properties of food, the rate of gastrointestinal passage, stomach distension and the rate of stomach emptying can be modulated in ways to induce satiety,” he says. “Our expertise in the field of protein/ingredient technology, such as gelling in the stomach, gastric emulsion stability and resistance to enzymatic degradation, enables us to identify and design ways to increase foods’ effects on satiety. Within this area, NIZO scientists designed a specific tool in which simulation of physiological digestion is combined with rheological measurements to enable the engineering of the physical parameters that contribute to satiation and satiety.”

Rate of nutrient absorption has also been shown to impact the feeling of fullness. “In the small intestine, foods are broken down before absorption and distribution throughout the body,” says Overduin. “The presence of nutrients stimulates hormone release and neural signals that inform the brain to continue or stop eating. The strength and timing of satiety signals is influenced by the rate of gastric emptying, the release of nutrients from the food matrix and the digestion of the nutrients.” This understanding enables formulators to optimize the satiety value of foods.

The fourth approach involves modulating gut bacteria. “Several studies have demonstrated that dietary fibers may be promising nutrients in controlling energy intake,” he says. “The satiety-enhancing effect of dietary fiber is probably triggered by fermentation metabolites that are released by the intestinal microbiota.

“With years of experience in gut physiology and intestinal microbiology, NIZO is able to set up in-vivo trials to determine the satiety-enhancing effect of ingredients or products that modulate the microbiota,” Overduin says. “In these trials a wide array of markers can be studied, ranging from body fat accumulation to expression of satiety hormones in the gastrointestinal tract.

“Body weight management is difficult, because we come with a set of biological urges and preferences that bias us towards weight gain. If the goal is to develop satiating products to keep consumers from joining the ranks of obesity, a multi-level approach to satiety seems a wise and necessary bet,” Overduin concludes.  

Dairy is a natural leader

As is almost always the case in foods and beverages with health benefits, European dairy companies are in the forefront of developing the category. One of the best examples is the very promising performance by Optimel Control yogurt drink from The Netherlands-based Campina during its debut year of 2007. The product retails at a 450% premium as compared to regular Optimel products. But this was no barrier to Optimel Control achieving retail sales of $13.7 million during its first year in the Netherlands, a country about the size of Maryland with a mere 17 million people.

Mellentin says, “If you pro-rata Optimel’s sales figures to a market the size of the United States, it would be a $100 million brand. What makes the achievement all the more remarkable is that it has been achieved in the Netherlands, one of Europe’s most price-sensitive retail marketplaces.

“In Europe, dairy products will dominate and dairy will be the primary carrier for weight management ingredients,” says Mellentin. “In North America, by contrast with Europe, American dairy companies are not engaging with the weight management opportunity and there is a very clear opportunity for a U.S. dairy company to create a new market, using one of the strategies pioneered in Europe.”

Ingredient options

The concept of satiety-inducing foods has become a driver of weight management foods and beverages. This suggests a bright future for suppliers of ingredients shown to make consumers feel full for a longer time after consumption.

For example, select fiber ingredients used in the formulation of reduced-calorie foods have been shown in human clinical studies to impart an increased feeling of fullness. Specifically, studies using foods formulated with polydextrose have been shown to inhibit subsequent food intake, with total daily caloric reductions being 5% to 25%. The same research indicated that these consumers did not overcompensate at their next meal by eating more calories.     

A recent studied showed that eating yogurt containing 25g of polydextrose three hours before lunch suppressed combined calorie intake by 5% to 8%, versus eating a yogurt sweetened with sucrose. Further, polydextrose mediates a very low-glycemic response compared to glucose. Various studies suggest that foods with a low-glycemic index help one feel fuller for longer than equivalent high-glycemic index foods.

Studies have also shown satiating benefits from other fiber ingredients, particularly inulin and oligofructose, both of which can be used in food formulations to reduce fat and sugar contents. Research indicates that when these fibers are fermented in the colon, they produce a hormone that signals the brain that the body is full. Further, the number of cells responsible for such hormone production was doubled in the colons of rats fed oligofructose. In several animal models including obese and diabetic rats, consumption of oligofructose resulted in reduced energy intake, lower body weight and even lower body fat mass. Long-term benefits were evidenced as well, as shown in a life-long supplementation study in animals.

A new cellulose plant derived ingredient not only has been shown to satiate, it also reduces the amount of saturated and trans fats absorbed by the body while supporting proper fat metabolism. Proper fat metabolism can reduce the build up of fat in healthy tissues where fat should not be deposited. An animal study during a four-week period showed that when the ingredient was incorporated into the diet, a 7% reduction in weight gain was achieved, compared to a control diet containing microcrystalline cellulose.

Other research shows that oat bran concentrate, a highly concentrated oat soluble fiber containing 54% beta-glucan, can increase the viscosity of stomach contents. This slows stomach emptying, prolonging the absorption of energy from a meal and decreasing the absorption of fat. These effects exert strong control over insulin release, which reduces cholesterol production, extends satiety and benefits heart and glycemic health. Beta-glucan-rich diets help sustain a feeling of satiety for extended periods of time as beta-glucan creates a filling effect in the stomach and intestine, which delays the appearance of hunger.

Both soluble fiber and natural resistant starch (an insoluble fiber) have been shown to induce satiety. While the traditional view of fiber has been that it induces satiety simply through physical bulking and entrapment of nutrients in the small intestine, evolving scientific research shows that there are more complex mechanisms by which fermentable soluble fibers and natural resistant starch directly impact satiety. For example, grain-based dextrin with up to 85% soluble fiber has been shown to induce satiety through extended glucose release in the small intestine and slow fermentation in the large intestine. The available energy from these two mechanisms reduces feelings of hunger after consumption, reducing the need for additional food intake.

Proteins, too, have been shown to satiate. Whey proteins (see sidebar) are digested quickly, resulting in a rapid and sustained increase in plasma amino acids, which may result in a decrease in food intake from the resulting increase in brain amino acid concentrations. Whey proteins, and specifically purified glycomacropeptide, have also been shown to stimulate the release of several gut peptides involved in satiety.

Soy protein isolates and concentrates have also been shown to induce satiety, as has soy cotyledon fiber, which has been shown to reduce the glycemic response to meals. Attenuating the sharp rise in plasma glucose after a meal has been considered to be one mechanism whereby fibers, in general, may induce satiety. In addition, food fibers tend to induce satiety through the physical expansion of the stomach, increasing the viscosity of the stomach contents and extending the stomach emptying time.

Other research suggests that certain fatty acids can contribute to satiety. Of particular interest is oleic acid, an omega-9 that is the dominant fatty acid in olive oil, high-oleic acid soybean oil and acai fruit pulp, and is also a component of grape seed oil.

A unique combination of oat and palm oils (both naturally occurring dietary lipids) has been formulated into a stable emulsion and has application in a number of foods. It is the unique satiating ingredient used in Optimel Control. The microstructure of the emulsion is thought to delay the digestion of palm oil droplets until relatively deep in the small intestine. Because undigested fat arriving in the ileum (the latter part of the small intestine) triggers an “appetite-satisfied” signal to the brain, consumers feel less hungry and a reduced need to take in more calories.

Also available is a patented fruit extract derived from the plant Garcinia cambogia. Research shows that components of the extract functions through multiple mechanisms to help suppress appetite, reduce food intake, sustain satiety, burn fat and help control body weight.

An ingredient derived from the Korean pine tree (Pinus koraiensis) contains a large concentration of pinolenic acid, which is a long chain, polyunsaturated fatty acid found in various pine nuts. It has been shown to stimulate the release of two appetite-suppressing peptide hormones.

In conclusion, weight management has gained the attention of U.S. dairy foods manufacturers and marketers, and ingredient suppliers have many solutions to offer formulators.

To purchase a copy of the New Nutrition Business report entitled: Trends & Strategies in Weight Management: Ten Key Case Studies, visit In addition to an in-depth analysis of the category, including case studies, the report emphasizes the unique role of dairy foods in weight management.

Sidebar: Does Dark Chocolate Satiate?

Scientists with the Department of Human Nutrition at the Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Copenhagen, compared the effects of dark and milk chocolate on both appetite and subsequent calorie intake.

Their research involved 16 young and healthy men of normal weight who liked both dark and milk chocolate. The subjects reported for two separate sessions, the first time testing the dark chocolate, and the second time the milk chocolate. Prior to the session, the subjects fasted for 12 hours. They were then offered 100g of chocolate to be consumed within 15 minutes. The calorific content was virtually the same for the milk and dark chocolate.

During the following 5 hours, participants were asked to register their appetite every half hour. Further, have way through the session, participants were offered pizza and were instructed to eat until they felt comfortably satiated. After the meal, the individuals’ calorie intake was registered. The results were significant. When dark chocolate was consumed beforehand, less pizza was eaten. In fact, these subjects consumed 15% fewer calories than those who ate the milk chocolate. The participants also stated that the dark chocolate made them feel less like eating sweet, salty or fatty foods.

Sidebar: Dairy Protein Builds Muscle, May Help Control Body Weight

Research suggests that dairy proteins, especially whey, excel in building muscle and reducing fat, which may help control body weight and curb obesity, hypertension and diabetes. Whey is a high-quality protein isolated during cheesemaking, and is a popular ingredient in foods like yogurt, energy bars and ready-to-drink beverages.

“Our research demonstrated that milk proteins are more effective than soy in building muscle and reducing fat, when consumed after regular resistance exercise,” says Stuart Phillips, associate professor of kinesiology at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “In additional research, whey-protein consumption appears to have a similar effect even in the absence of exercise or diet.”

G. Harvey Anderson, professor of nutrition sciences, physiology and medical sciences at the University of Toronto, Canada, adds, “Whey protein has tremendous potential as a functional food component for maintaining a healthy weight. Research shows that whey helps the body feel full and satisfied; therefore, it may assist in body weight management, obesity and related conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes and more.”

While the mechanisms of action are not fully understood, whey protein has a positive effect on insulin and cholesterol levels in the blood, as well as a positive and prolonged effect on satiation and satiety.