Nanotech

Researchers at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore developed nano-sized cellulose fibers to control food absorption to prevent obesity. / Photo by: Kimchi.sg via Wikimedia Commons

 

A team of scientists has developed nano-sized cellulose fibers that help reduce the body’s fat absorption from food—a major development in the world’s fight against obesity.

The study was conducted by scientists from Harvard University and Nanyang Technological University Singapore. Their findings involved tiny balls of nanocellulose fibers that are 100 times smaller than the width of a single human hair and, in experiments done in a simulated gastrointestinal tract, are projected to lower fat absorption by as much as 48 percent.

To determine the efficacy of the tiny fibers in actual animals, the team conducted further testing using rats. The animals were fed with heavy cream that contained nanocellulose fibers. The results showed that fat absorption went down by 36 percent.

According to the scientists, this happened because nanocellulose has a tendency to bind and trap fat molecules known as triglycerides. Normally, these molecules are broken down by digestive enzymes and then absorbed by the small intestine so the body can turn them into fat. But if they are trapped in nanocellulose fibers, like a cotton ball dipped in oil, the digestive enzymes can’t get to all of them, which means lesser fatty acids for the body to absorb.

 “We’ve known for a long time that fiber in the diet has positive health benefits, but what we have shown now is that in animal experiments, fibers at the nanoscale are much more effective at reducing fat absorption than in its bulk form,” said Prof. Ng Kee Woei, a biomedical engineer and materials scientist at NTU.

According to Philip Demokritou, director of Harvard’s Center for Nanotechnology and Nanotoxicology, the best part of this discovery is that they were able to develop the nanocellulose fibers without using any chemicals and that the materials involved were naturally obtained from plants.

 “[It’s like] having your cake and eating it too,” he added.

Sciencedaily.com reported that cellulose, which all plants have, is categorized as a Generally Regarded As Safe material by the Food and Drug Administration. That to obtain nanocellulose is as easy as” grinding cellulose into extremely fine powder.”

Is the era of eating to your heart’s content without the worry of getting fat upon us?