Over-eating could have a powerful antidote soon: An edible gel that's hard to digest, making you feel more full than you actually are. Might sound gross, but with a belt-loosening epidemic going on, this gel might represent an alternative to surgery.

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I'll admit to eating way too much this holiday season. Homemade gingerbread cowboys really did me in. That's the trouble with cookies -- and mashed potatoes, and cheese and cake --it's all so easy to eat that overindulgence is inevitable. So scientists from the University of Birmingham in the U.K. created an edible gel that thickens soft food in the gut and makes you feel truly full, Richard Gray reported in the Telegraph.

Led by chemical engineering research fellow Jennifer Bradbeer, the University of Birmingham team concocted the gel from two biopolymers: low acyl and high acyl gellan gum. Sounds like something you shouldn't eat, but those gums are actually derived from seaweed, starch and citrus peel, according to Gray. Chefs also use the water-soluble gums in molecular gastronomy, although if you're paying for foam you probably won't need this new gel anyway.

The gel works by becoming more solid when it hits an acidic stomach-like environment. It breaks down slowly, giving your brain a chance to catch on that your stomach is full. Bradbeer and her colleagues published details about the gel in the March 2014 issue of the journal Food Hydrocolloids (abstract).

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The scientists told the Telegraph that they plan to work on combining the gel with starch or sugars next. That way it will release more slowly, prolonging the full effect. After that the goal will be to put the gel into foods. Maybe better metabolism really can be bought. Until then, I'll try to keep those gingerbread cowboys corralled.