Fast-Food Fat Buster May Drop Diabetes Risk
Additive Could Help Avoid Type 2 Diabetes -- but Not Cut Calories
Fast-food restaurants of the future may have a new menu item: an additive
that lets people eat fare high in saturated fat without raising their risk of
type 2 diabetes.
"It could be formulated into something like a cheese slice," says
Wallace Yokoyama, PhD, a research chemist with the U.S. Department of
Or, the additive -- called HPMC (hydroxypropylmethylcellulose) -- could
become an ingredient in home cooking. "I don't see why not," Yokoyama
So far, HPMC has helped hamsters avoid blood sugar problems on a diet high
in saturated fat. That's the type of fat found in animal products -- and on the
plates (and arteries) of many Americans. The major culprits of saturated fats
for U.S. adults are cheese, beef, milk, and bakery items.
Human trials haven't been done yet. Yokoyama tells WebMD he hopes those will
happen in the next couple of years. Meanwhile, he suggests eating a healthy
diet -- and takes his own advice. Yokoyama's lunch yesterday was tuna niçoise
salad, not a super-sized burger with fries.
Calories Still Count
Even if HPMC's human tests succeed, it won't be a green light to chow down
on fatty foods, Yokoyama cautions. HPMC doesn't shave any calories off
"It's not going to prevent weight gain, but it does seem to prevent
insulin resistance," Yokoyama tells WebMD. "We still recommend moderate
intake of calories and moderate exercise."
Insulin resistance shows that the body's ability to handle blood sugar is
slipping. The problem can lead to type 2 diabetes, which has been rising in the
What Is HPMC?
HPMC is an indigestible form of fiber made from cellulose. You may have
already unwittingly sampled it in tiny amounts.
HPMC has been used in many food products for 50 years. It's added to
fillings, sauces, and glazes. With no taste or odor, HPMC lends texture without
drawing attention to itself, says a news release from the American Chemical
Society, a scientists' organization.
No negative side effects have been seen from HPMC, says Yokoyama. "We
know from another study a couple of years ago that it passes through the
digestive system and is excreted intact," he tells WebMD.
Currently, HPMC accounts for less than 1% of the total ingredients in foods
containing the additive. It would probably take more than that to avoid insulin
resistance, according to the news release.