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The weight loss industry is worth millions — exactly because it doesn't work. We struggle to survive our calorie-dense diets, but now a new range of designer foods that make you feel full might be about to change that.

Satiation is about the signalling process that your digestive system uses to let your brain know when you've had enough to eat. In many people, this satiation system is disordered by habitually eating too much, and it's a picture that's further complicated by the fact that different macronutrients have different satiation signalling effects. That's been known for a long time, and most sensible eating plans will factor it in. Essentially, fat has almost no effect on feelings of satiation and carbohydrates not much, which is why it's so easy to eat a whole bag of potato chips, or a kilo of chocolate. It's not so easy to eat a thousand calories of meat or fish, because the strongest satiation signals come from protein. In a world of high-carb, mid-fat, low-protein diets, though, we're eating to grow, because we're eating a high-calorie, low-satiation diet.

Typically, dietary changes work best when they allow people to basically go on eating what they were eating already. Vegetarianism became far easier when vegeburgers and other meat-substitutes came of age. So it's probably a bad idea to hope for a change in the way we all eat that's consumer-led. It's more likely that we'll look for fixes that allow us to keep our current dietary tastes.

Which brings us to the macronutrient I didn't meantion earlier: starch.

Starches are long-chain carbohydrates, but they don't always behave that way in our digestive systems. Some starches are absorbed slowly; others are too tough. Our stomachs can't break them down. So instead they pass through our digestive systems as what used to be called "roughage," or indigestible fiber. 

Just because we don't digest them directly, though, doesn't mean that we don't get any benefit from them.

Just like all dietary fiber, digestible or not, they contribute to feelings of satiety by literally "filling you up," and your body senses the aditional bulk in your stomach and reacts accordingly.

But there's more.

These undigested starches are the food for some of the bacteria that live in our guts, and those bacteria are pretty important.

Gut bacteria are so important, in fact, that some doctors recommend transplanting them from one person's bowel to another to change bowel function and impact other aspects of health.

And now scientists working out of the University of Liverpool in the UK, as well as other European research sites, think they may have discovered a way to make it easier for people to control their weight by manipulating how well-fed their gut bacteria are. It turns out that those same gut bacteria that have so many other health benefits also partially control how full you feel.

The key is resistant starch.

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