A fibrous material in seaweed could hold the key to conquering obesity, scientists believe.
Their research shows that it can reduce fat uptake by more than 75 per cent.
Now, scientists at Newcastle University are adding the seaweed fibre to bread and launching trials to see if foods can be developed which can even help people lose weight.
The research team, led by Dr Iain Brownlee and Prof Jeff Pearson, has found that dietary fibre in one of the world's largest commercially used seaweed could reduce the amount of fat absorbed y the body by around 75 per cent.
The team found that Alginate - a natural fibre found in sea kelp - stops the body from absorbing fat better than most anti-obesity treatments currently
available over the counter.
Using an artificial gut, they tested the effectiveness of more than 60 different natural fibres by measuring the amount of fat that was digested and absorbed with each treatment.
Brownlee said the next step is to recruit volunteers and study whether the effects they have modelled in the lab can be reproduced in real people, and whether such foods are truly acceptable in a normal diet.
"The aim of this study was to put these products to the test and our initial findings are that alginates significantly reduce fat digestion," said Brownlee.
"This suggests that if we can add the natural fibre to products commonly eaten daily - such as bread, biscuits and yoghurts - up to three quarters of the fat contained in that meal could simply pass through the body.
"We have already added the alginate to bread and initial taste tests have been extremely encouraging. Now the next step to carry out clinical trials to find out how effective they are when eaten as part of a normal diet," Brownlee dded.
The findings have been presented at the American Chemical Society Spring meeting in San Francisco.