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Tomorrow's Food

Tomorrow's Food

Published on: 20 November 2015

BBC1 explores the future of food including a seaweed tablet which could stop your body absorbing fat based on work at Newcastle University.

Led by Dara O Briain, this BBC 1 series will reveal the cutting-edge technologies and produce appearing in farms, supermarkets, kitchens and restaurants around the world, transforming how we grow, buy and eat our food.

The world’s population may be growing, but we’re coming up with ingenious solutions to ensure the future of our breakfasts, lunches and dinners.

The first episode features the work of Dr Matt Wilcox on alginates extracted from seaweed. Matt guides presenter and greengrocer Chris Bavin who tries out a seaweed pill that could stop your body from absorbing some of the fat in your diet.

Determined to put this to the test, Chris gathers together a group of truck drivers with a fatty diet to see if this pill could really work for them - with astonishing results.

Image credit BBC
Dr Matt Wilcox with presenter Chris Bavin. Photo: BBC


Alginates are already used in foods, such as stabilisers in jam and to maintain the head on a pint of beer. However, their potential as a food supplement which prevents us absorbing fat is now being explored.

In the Western diet, 40% of calories come from fat and while we need some fat in our diet, many of us eat too much. 95 – 100% of the fat we eat is digested by lipase, an enzyme that the body uses to break down fats. If we can reduce the amount digested, we reduce the amount absorbed.

Dr Wilcox has been working on adding seaweeds to everyday foods to prevent us absorbing much of the fat from our diets.

He said: "We were surprised at the extent of the results in this test and based on this we’re going to repeat this experiment in a clinical manner.

“Lorry drivers were given an alginate tablet extracted from brown seaweed before each meal and they lost weight even though they were not making any effort to control their diet.

"The beauty of using alginate is that it is naturally occurring and is already used in small amounts in the food industry. We are looking at working with food producers to try and increase the levels in foods to reduce the amount of fat that we get which could help weight management."

Watch Tomorrow’s Food on BBC 1, Monday 23rd Nov, 9pm and then available on the iplayer.


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