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Researchers Identify Fat-Blocking Effect of Nanofibers

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University suggest that nano-sized cellulose fibers reduce fat absorption

A study conducted by Philip Demokritou and Joachim Loo, associate professors at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health observed tiny balls of nano-sized cellulose fibres added to food reduced fat absorption by up to half in laboratory and animal experiments. The research published in the ACS Nano on June 6, 2018, reports that the findings could aid against obesity, as experiments done in a simulated gastrointestinal tract showed that nanocellulose fibres 100 times smaller than the width of a human hair could cut fat absorption by up to 48 per cent. The researchers observed that mouse models fed with heavy cream containing nanocellulose absorbed 36 per cent less fats than rats fed with heavy cream alone. The team studied the mechanism of nanocellulose to bind and trap fat molecules known as triglycerides. These triglycerides are converted into fatty acids by digestive enzymes in the gut and are absorbed by the small intestines and converted to fat by the human body.

However, enzymes involved in breaking down triglycerides for fat absorption are less effective as triglycerides are trapped in nanocellulose fibres. It leads to absorption of the reduced amount of fatty acids by the body. The researches added 1 mg of nanocellulose to 100mg of heavy cream, in the experiment. The researchers stated that more amount of nanocellulose would lead to its absorption and a larger percentage of fat would have been trapped. Nanocellulose possess a wide variety of applications such as food additives or supplements. Adjustment of its concentration could mitigate fat absorption for certain groups of people. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorized cellulose as a Generally Regarded As Safe (GRAS) material as it is found in all plants. Grinding cellulose into extremely fine powder creates Nanocellulose A US provisional patent jointly filed by Harvard and NTU was granted to the new method of using nanocellulose fibres as fat blockers.