As the UK continues to face an obesity epidemic, scientists and dieticians search for new strategies to tackle the crisis. But with countless diets and recommendations available, many consumers face conflicting advice surrounding the best options for consistent weight loss. As popular diets can often involve reducing or eliminating a food group, those looking to lower their calorie intake are often left feeling hungry and unsatisfied at meal times.

Tackling obesity

One of the high street’s major food retailers, M&S, initially launched its Count on Us range of main meals as a healthy, calorie-controlled solution to the nation’s weight loss challenges, but soon recognised that a fuller range of meals, salads and snacks would ensure consumers could embrace healthy options in all parts of their lives.

Known in the food industry for her work around nutrition and sustainable weight loss, Professor Alexandra Johnstone at the University of Aberdeen’s Rowett
Institute
was approached by M&S to spearhead an industry-academia collaboration to advise and guide the company in its development of a new food range.

The key to appetite control 

Although the Atkins diet was popular at the time and known for its low carbohydrate approach, Professor Johnstone’s research suggested that recipes comprising 30% protein, 30% fat and 40% carbohydrate were actually the most effective for sustainable weight loss and left consumers feeling fuller for longer.

Following extensive research with human volunteers, Professor Johnstone and her team worked closely with the M&S senior management team and supply chain partners to develop the Balanced for You range. High in protein with balanced carbohydrates such as quinoa, pulses and beans, the range encourages consumers to manage weight control sensibly with a diverse range of flavoursome dishes.

Professor Johnstone said: “After many years of research, I identified that high-protein, moderate carbohydrate (HPMC) diets are just as effective at achieving appetite control as those with low carbs. We trialled the Balanced for You range on a number of study volunteers who felt notably fuller for longer periods of time, which led to better appetite control and consistent weight loss. This project was a fantastic opportunity to share our research with a major food retailer and to see our concept for an effective dietary strategy evolving from the research lab directly to the supermarket shelf.”  

Impact

  • Balanced for You range remains one of the UK’s top selling health food brands
  • The range increased food sales for M&S and significantly enhanced the company’s business performance
  • Other major supermarkets are now replicating high protein food ranges as consumer behaviour changes and improves
  • M&S continues to develop a niche within hospitals to support healthy eating for staff and patients