British scientists claim to have engineered a new food that can make you feel twice as full. It is a certain mixture of olive oil, water and a stabiliser already used in the baking industry.
The new food can keep people feeling fuller for 12 hours after eating.
But this potential weapon against obesity could take ten years to hit the supermarket shelves, said researchers with the Institute of Food Research, Norwich.
Dr Martin Wickham from IFR said: 'This is the first time that we have seen such a dramatic effect from a model meal.
'This formulation could be used as an ingredient in new foods to make them more filling, which in turn could help reduce overconsumption of calories.'
The mixture has been developed by Dr Wickham and Richard Faulks at the Institute of Food Research and its effects tested by scientists at Nottingham University.
They used an extra-fast type of MRI scanning to show the effects in the stomach.
The three-year project has found that emulsions of olive oil and water - the same principle as a salad dressing - can be altered to affect how they react in the acid environment of the stomach.
Scientists made two types of emulsion stabilised with different compounds commonly used in the food industry.
One used a kind of polysorbate surfactant called Tween 60, which is widely used in cakes and pastries, and the other used a polysorbate surfactant called Span 80.
The two are chemically very similar, but Tween keeps the oil and water stable in the stomach, while Span allows it to break into a layer of water and a layer of oil. The mixture was flavoured with coffee and given to 11 volunteers as a coffee milkshake-style drink.
Their stomachs were scanned every hour to see how much remained. After one hour, there was twice as much volume in the stomachs of people who had drunk the stable mixture.
This is because when the water separates, it leaves the stomach much more quickly, but when it stays mixed with the oil, it stays in the stomach for longer.
Dr Wickham said: 'If we can retain material in our stomachs for longer we tend to feel fuller. It is important to control obesity and keep weight down, and this is a more acceptable way of doing it than restricting your food intake on a diet. You would feel fuller so you don't want to eat, rather than starving yourself.'
Its first uses are likely to be in a drink, while it would take longer to get it ready for use in solid foods.
Its potential uses are sweeping because most processed food contain fat as an emulsion of tiny oil droplets.
The study was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, of which the IFR is a part, and published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
There have been reports of other approaches like incorporation of hunger curbing plant chemicals called lipids into a wide range of convenience foods such as cakes and biscuits.
Lipids exist in cereals including oats, which explains why a bowl of porridge keeps you feeling fuller for longer.
The research, led by Dr Peter Wilde, of the Institute of Food Research in Norwich, is developing a way of isolating those lipids that are easily digested by the body and concentrating them into a product that can be inserted into food.
"We are looking at how to change the satiety properties," the Telegraph had quoted him, as saying last year.
"We are trying to reduce appetite by using the body's own natural response rather than using an appetite suppressant drug," he added.