Food & Beverage Perspectives
high fat diets

Prebiotics Help Kids Eat Less, Thwart Obesity

<p>In a further effort to decrease childhood obesity, a new method of appetite regulation in children was investigated by graduate student Megan Hume using prebiotic fibers. At the end of 16 weeks, the prebiotic fiber group of kids consumed 100 calories less at a final buffet and experienced more feelings of fullness compared to the placebo group.</p>

In a further effort to decrease childhood obesity, a new method of appetite regulation in children was investigated by graduate student Megan Hume from the University of Calgary and the finding were presented on March 28th at the American Society for Nutrition’s Annual Meeting.

Prebiotic fibers—which are known for aid healthy digestion, support heart health and more—have shown promise in appetite regulation in adults, but Hume wanted to evaluate its potential in children. Working with Professor Raylene Reimer, Ph.D., R.D., Faculty of Kinesiology, Hume recruited 42 children with body mass indexes (BMIs) above the 85th percentile. The children were randomized to receive the treatment, a prebiotic fiber or a placebo (maltodextrin). Both treatments were in powdered form and mixed with 250 ml of water. The children were instructed to drink the mixture 30 minutes before dinner.

At week 0 and week 16 Hume and colleagues collected measurements including a blood sample and subjective scales rating their appetite. The children were taken to a breakfast buffet at start and end of the study, where they had a choice of foods. Before and after eating, children rated their appetite levels and the researchers weighed their food. The prebiotic fiber group consumed 100 calories less at the final buffet and experienced more feelings of fullness. The fiber group rated their satiety levels before the meal higher than the maltodextrin group.

“These findings are promising, showing that intake of prebiotic fiber could cause a reduction in energy intake and body weight," said Reimer. “It’s one more tool to use in the obesity epidemic. As a dietary strategy it should be in the toolbox. Of course, we still have to address all food factors in a child’s life. But this type of small, incremental change can make a positive impact on their health."

Moving forward, the researchers said it will be important to know what happens if you give the prebiotic to normal weight kids. “In adults, we know it is safe. I wouldn’t expect to see compromised growth in normal/underweight kids either and there may be other benefits from increasing fiber intake given that very few North Americans eat enough fiber every day," she added. A second goal is for food companies to eventually put the fiber into their products.

Today’s fiber ingredients are extremely versatile and suitable for almost any food application so Hume’s hope is very realistic. We published a survival guide on fiber earlier this year that gives the inside scoop of fiber and how-to formulate it into better-for-you breakfasts and more.

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