KANSAS CITY, MO. — Speculation in recent months has centered on how GLP-1 agonists such as Ozempic, Trulicity and Mounjaro may impact food and beverage demand.

From a product development perspective, the medications may turn consumer attention to satiety and how ingredients like fiber, protein and the sweetener allulose may keep consumers full as well, thus aiding in weight loss.

“It’s going to affect the food industry in a really negative way, or it’s going to open up a lot of opportunities,” said Thom King, chief executive officer of Icon Foods, Portland, Ore. “I think it really depends on how you look at it.”

A study issued last October by Circana showed little impact. On shopping trips for all households, consumers on average bought 25.1 food and beverage items for each trip, according to Circana, a Chicago-based market research firm. On trips for households with a member on GLP-1 agonists, the average number of food and beverage items bought was 26 per trip. GLP-1 households showed a preference for snack products that are rich in protein, provide a quick energy boost, support hydration and offer convenience.

Morgan Stanley, New York, in February conducted a survey among 300 consumers in the United States taking GLP-1 drugs. Morgan Stanley estimated calorie consumption will decline 1.5% to 2.5% by 2035 as anti-obesity medication increases 30% to 31 million people, or 9% of the US population. Consumption of protein bars and shakes should increase while consumption of sweets such as baked foods, confectionery, chips and regular soft drinks may decrease by about 5% by 2035.

“Love them or hate them, Ozempic and GLP-1 drugs have proven to be a massive success,” said Hannah Ackermann, director of marketing and communications for Comet Bio, London, Ont. “They have shown that consumers are not only interested in but willing to pay large amounts of discretionary income for products that provide tangible results.

“The space is wide open for other biotic foods and drinks to appeal to consumers’ interest in mechanisms other than glucagon-like peptides that regulate appetite in the brain, improve insulin responses and improve satiety — or a feeling of fullness — well after a meal is consumed.”

Vanessa Bailey, senior manager, global strategy and innovation, healthful solutions for Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., expressed caution, however.

“Foods and drugs should not be compared,” she said. “Both food and drugs play crucial roles in our health, but it is essential to recognize they each have distinct purposes and contexts.

“It is difficult to say how they would be complementary at this point in time. However, a healthy diet is always important and should be discussed with the prescribing physician or a registered dietitian.”

Some ingredients also increase GLP-1 levels in the body.

“GLP-1 is naturally produced by the body when we consume foods, and one of its jobs is to slow stomach emptying, signaling fullness so we know when to stop eating,” said Colleen Zammer, vice president of varietal solutions growth and innovation for Bay State Milling Co., Quincy, Mass. “A second job of GLP-1 is to tell the pancreas to generate insulin to help move sugars out of the blood and into the cells where it is needed for energy. When this natural metabolic process is compromised, the drugs provide an external source.”


Emerging evidence on allulose

The use of allulose in food and beverage applications increased when the US Food and Drug Administration in 2019 said it will not use enforcement to allow allulose to be excluded from the total sugars declaration and added sugars declaration on the Nutrition Facts Label.

Researchers from Kagawa University and Hokkaido University Hospital in Japan explored, among other things, allulose’s impact on the glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1). The study was published April 6, 2023, in PLOS One.

It focused on the postprandial glucose changes in healthy humans by a systematic review and meta-analysis, concluding allulose works as a blood glucose management tool for healthy humans and diabetes patients. Allulose induces GLP-1 release from intestinal cells and regulates glucose concentrations after glucose and allulose intake, according to the study.

In healthy adults, adding either 5 grams or 10 grams of allulose to a carbohydrate-containing meal was shown to lower postprandial incremental area-under-curve for glucose compared with the same meal without allulose.

“Allulose is metabolized by the gut,” King said. “It can create a GLP-1 agonist.”

Since allulose has longer chain amino acids, it metabolizes faster and has a half-life of a few hours, meaning half the allulose is out of a person’s system in that time, King said, adding injections of GLP-1 agonists only take place once a week.

“They’re short chains,” said King, who at separate times has taken Ozempic and Mounjaro. “So, they last a lot longer.”

King said the emerging popularity of weight-loss medications may create opportunities for nutrient-dense snacks. The medications reduce calories and may affect muscle development, which could lead to sarcopenia, an age-related loss of muscle mass and strength. Protein drinks containing over 30 grams of protein per serving may counteract that, he said.

King also sees potential for products that contain a combination of soluble and insoluble fibers, such as stacking inulin with a soluble tapioca fiber. Fifteen grams of fiber could be formulated into a bar and not trigger any significant gastrointestinal negative impact.

“One that I’m seeing really pop is popcorn,” he said. “It’s pretty ‘carby,’ but if it’s made without added sugars, it’s got plenty of fiber.”


Fiber’s impact

Fiber also may increase GLP-1 levels in the body.

“When foods made from fermentable fiber-containing ingredients are consumed, they take time to ferment and produce butyrate and subsequently GLP-1 over the course of a few hours, providing a boost of GLP-1 in addition to that which occurs from normal metabolism and that coming from the drug,” Zammer said. “These foods may be more beneficial when a consumer stops taking the drugs, as a ‘lower-dose’ source of GLP-1 stimulation.”

One kind of fiber, resistant starch, particularly promotes satiety, she said.

“Resistant starch fiber is both insoluble and fermentable fiber, which can promote satiety in two ways,” Zammer said. “By absorbing water and expanding, it can provide a feeling of fullness in the stomach.

“In addition, resistant starch fiber is not digested in the upper digestive tract, so it arrives in the large intestine intact where it is fermented by gut bacteria to produce short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids are known to trigger satiety hormones (like GLP-1), which signal us to stop eating.”

Ingredion offers Hi-Maize resistant starch that has been shown to offer benefits in digestive health, weight management, diabetes and energy management, according to the company.

“Fiber influences hunger and satiety through several mechanisms,” Bailey said. “These include gastric distention, delayed gastric emptying, prevention of hypoglycemia, increased delivery of unabsorbed nutrients to the ileum, and stimulation of hormones that promote satiety. Additionally, the fermentation of fibers produces short-chain fatty acids, which further stimulate enteroendocrine cells to secrete GLP-1 and PYY.”

When bacteria ferment prebiotic fiber in the large intestine, it leads to the release of GLP-1 and another appetite-decreasing hormone known as PYY (peptide YY), according to Comet Bio. The smaller molecules suppress appetite.

Comet Bio offers Arrabina, an arabinoxylan prebiotic fiber.

“With its excellent solubility, low viscosity and low inclusion rate, Arrabina prebiotic dietary fibers offer an easy way for manufacturers to create delicious products while strengthening nutrition labels and sustainability claims,” Ackermann said. “Arrabina’s versatility makes it easy to add the clinically proven benefits of arabinoxylan to any food/beverage/supplement application and help close the fiber gap.”


Protein to feel fuller longer

Dietary protein elevates GLP-1, a hormone produced in the small intestine called cholecystokinin, and PYY levels, which are secreted in the gut and diminish appetite while also decreasing ghrelin levels, said Priyadarshini Muley-Lotankar, research scientist at Glanbia Nutritionals, Chicago. Since higher ghrelin levels increase appetite, reducing the levels decreases appetite.

“Amino acids like BCAA (branch-chained amino acids) are used by the brain and can initiate the satiety signal,” she said.

Bay State Milling offers SowNaked Oats, hull-less oats that contain 40% more protein than traditional oats.

“Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates and therefore slows stomach emptying, which keeps you feeling full for a longer period of time,” Zammer said. “Oatmeal is a traditional breakfast food that is known to fill you up, but when you have oatmeal made from oats that contain 40% more protein, that oatmeal is likely to keep you feeling fuller for a longer time.”