Nestle Wants to Tell You When You're Hungry

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You may not know it, but you have a second brain in your belly. And Nestle is trying to trick it.

Nestle researchers are developing foods that would help people eat less by making them feel full more quickly or stay full longer, the Wall Street Journal reports. The foods would essentially fool your digestive system's "gut brain," which informs your actual brain--by way of neural signals--when you're hungry or full. The products could appear in stores within five years and won't necessarily be limited to chocolate (yes, Nestle makes other things).

It stands to reason that most food companies would want you to eat more of their products, not less, but Nestle isn't the only enterprise seeking to "decipher the language of satiety" and "make better satiety-inducing foods," the Journal adds:

This avenue of food science ... could represent a fresh assault in the fight against flab. One in four Americans is obese, and obesity rates are also rising dramatically in parts of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Although food companies have long tried to make effective fat-fighting food, their results have been modest.

To figure out how people digest food, the Swiss company has created a million-dollar, refrigerator-sized, see-through model of the human gut. In one experiment, researchers fed the artificial gut regular olive oil and olive oil with the compound monoglyceride, which makes the oil more difficult to digest:

The Nestle scientists ... found it took eight times longer for the machine to "digest" the olive oil-monoglyceride combination compared with the olive oil alone. This resulted in more undigested oil reaching the small intestine. In the human body, this could lead to a stronger ... signal of fullness to the big brain.

Not everyone's as excited about the research as Nestle's scientists are. As Alan Sytsma explains at New York magazine:

If food scientists can figure out ways to make the process of eating bypass our regular brains, how long before a company can manufacture a snack food that we are physically unable to resist? Suddenly "betcha can't eat just one" sounds a lot more sinister.

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