Cheating hunger

Title: Scientists Try To Stop Hunger With Retooled Foods
Author: Maria Cheng


Scientists in England are developing foods designed to curb appetites by slowing down the digestive system, therefore signaling the brain to suppress the desire for food consumption. Researchers, like Peter Wilde, are relying on the body’s natural method to digest high-fat foods. Their food is coated with modified fat globules that delay the arrival of specific digestive enzymes, allowing the fat to signal the distal, appetite-suppressing areas of intestines. This will effectively trick the brain into thinking it has consumed a high-fat diet, even if it has not, to curb unnecessary overeating.

History and Progression:
Current marketed drugs for dieting include Xenical or Alli, also known as orlistat. This drug works by blocking some fat absorption of the intestinal tract, but can cause side effects like diarrhea if combined with low fiber consumption. Similarly, recent tests of a seaweed extract called alginate have demonstrated diminished fat absorption by reducing the amount of glucose digested in certain areas of the intestines. In addition to the digestive benefits, studies have shown that alginate-enhanced foods tasted similar and sometimes better than traditional provisions. Also, a plant-extracted food additive from South Africa can be expected to reach the market in the coming years. This additive has been shown to significantly ebb appetites over a trial period.

Health Risk:
The article does not address side effects to administering modified plant proteins to the human body nor does it attend to the result of delaying fat digestion. I’m not sure which proteins the scientists are studying, so I cannot comment on the possibilities. However, delayed fat digestion combined with a low-fiber diet could possibly lead to the development of colon cancer or other diseases.

Wilde’s research can be applied to almost any fatty foods, including dairy, sauces, condiments or breads. According to the study, it is likely that taste will not be affected. It seems that eating habits will not be required to change, however it is unlikely that altered foods alone will solve obesity alone. There are various mechanisms responsible for homeostasis and this research really only addresses one of them.

Ethical Practice:
As discussed in the article, this research would likely not result in a magic cure for obesity. People eat for various reasons, and some may eat regardless of whether they feel full or not, thus nullifying the use of these foods. Also, chemically-altered foods will require proper regulation to determine who is eligible to consume it to prevent abuse.

Positive Benefits:
A potential avenue to curb excessive eating can be attributed to consumption of the modified food.

Negative Effects:
Unknown or unstudied side effects may result from the long-term eating of said foods. The possibility of anorexic abuse occurs as well.

Political Beliefs:
Obvious government regulation and physician oversight should be required before participation is allowed. I don’t believe altered food should be widely available to consumers, as there are plenty of other avenues that people can attempt first that are far more rewarding, such as self-control and exercise.

Religious Beliefs:
Some religions may reject the use of any altered foods. I personally see no religious conflict present.

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