Seaweed in foods and drinks
Alginate is a structural carbohydrate from brown seaweeds like those in the Laminaria family. It has a gummy texture and is widely used in the food industry as a gelling agent, emulsifier, and thickener. Sodium alginate can be found in the ingredient lists of common foods such as ice cream, yogurt, sauces, gravies, and dressings. Several studies have found that taking alginate as a supplement can cause a sensation of fullness and decrease appetite.
In the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 96 adults with obesity were put on a calorie-restricted diet and were given a powdered drink supplement to take three times per day, 30 minutes before meals, for 12 weeks. The drink mix given to half of the participants contained sodium alginate, while the placebo drink mix given to the other half did not.
Alginate drinkers lost more weight
At the end of the trial, both groups had lost weight, but the alginate drinkers had lost 3.74 pounds (1.7 kg) more than the placebo drinkers. They also lost a greater percentage of body fat. However, the drop in blood pressure that generally accompanies weight loss was seen only in the placebo group.
"These results suggest that alginate supplementation as an adjunct to energy restriction may improve weight loss in obese subjects," the study's authors said. They proposed that the sodium content of the alginate drink may have kept blood pressure from falling, despite the added weight loss.
Other ways to feel full
Getting the body to think it is already full at mealtime is one of the oldest weight loss tricks. In addition to sodium alginate, here are some things to try if you want to suppress your appetite:
- Drink water. Having a big glass of water before a meal gives a feeling of fullness and helps us eat less.
- Start with salad. Fill up on salad greens or other vegetables before you approach your main course. Use dressings made with healthy oils like olive or safflower oil, and flavor steamed or lightly sauteed braising greens with garlic, lemon, and a dash of tamari or soy sauce.
- Enjoy an apple. Apples are low in calories and dense in pectin, a fiber that supports healthy bacteria in the digestive tract, keeps bowels moving regularly, and is very filling. Remember: only a fresh apple has pectin. Stay away from apple juice, which has lots of natural sugar and almost no fiber.
(Am J Clin Nutr 2012;doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.025312)