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Condition - Weight management - Satiety secrets of the salubrious spud

By Holly Taylor BSc (Hons) DipCNM MBANT

As the countdown to the party season begins in earnest, now is the perfect time to take positive steps towards a new you, looking stunning in that little black dress by Christmas! 

However, as the weather turns colder it’s all too easy to over-indulge on stodgy comfort foods and gain unwanted pounds. Happily, there’s one winter favourite with a trick up its sleeve! In 1995, scientists studying satiety (feeling full) discovered that potatoes helped people to feel full up for longer because they contain special compounds that can help to promote the effects of one of our satiety signals.

Throughout the body, there are a number of chemical messengers that co-ordinate our appetite. One of the most important is a substance called CCK (cholecystokinin). When we eat, food travels to the stomach where it is mixed with acid and other chemicals that help to break it down. After an hour or so, the food is then gradually released into the intestines so it can be further digested and absorbed. As soon as this starts to happen special factors are released that stimulate the production of CCK. 

CCK has three main actions. Firstly, it sends a message back to the stomach to slow down the emptying process and ensure all the food isn’t released at once. It also acts on the pancreas and gallbladder, signalling to them to release their digestive juices, and, finally, it sends a message back to the brain that tells us we’re full up and satisfied. This process is self-regulating because, after a while, the CCK-releasing factors are digested with the rest of the food and the CCK message is switched off. Unfortunately,  modern lifestyles have led to many people becoming out of touch with  these appetite signals. Our speedy eating habits mean that we have often over-eaten before the CCK message has even been switched on! 

Fortunately, the special compounds called PI2 inhibitors that scientist have found in potatoes may provide a solution. Studies into how PI2 inhibitors work suggests that these substances are able hold up the breakdown of the CCK-releasing factors, helping to extend the satiety effect of CCK. Sadly, you’d have to four large potatoes at each meal to achieve a significant effect! However, women who have taken part in trials where they have taken PI2 inhibitor supplements 1 hour before meals have reported significantly reduced hunger, increased feelings of fullness and improved management of portion size. What’s more, scientists have also noticed that PI2 inhibitors actually help to reduce the glycaemic index of a meal by slowing down how quickly the sugars are released into the blood stream. These combined effects explain why women taking part in the trials experienced reductions in their body weight and waist-to-hip ratios. This means that, while a mountain of potato might not be the solution to a svelte silhouette, PI2 inhibitors may be one way to curb winter indulges for a trim figure this festive season. 

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