A chemical firm has revealed a powder derived from a cake ingredient could be used to help people lose weight.

Methyl cellulose, which is used as an emulsifier in cakes and snacks, was found to help people who were given a sample of the food additive to reduce their calorie consumption in their next meal by 13% during a clinical trial.

Scientists are hoping the cake powder will be approved by the UK Food Standards Agency by the end of the year to be used in a range of yoghurts, smoothies, ice creams and soups, targeted at health-conscious and slimming Britons.

Dr Carsten Huettermann from Dow Wolff Cellulosics in Bomlitz, Germany, told attendees of the American Chemical Society meeting: "This ingredient would make people feel full after eating smaller amounts of food. With that sense of fullness and hunger-satisfaction, they would not crave more food.

"In our first study, we saw that fewer calories were consumed at the following meal after eating our new product. Our next step now is to investigate in further studies the mechanism of action and whether this may have an impact on weight management."

An advisory committee from the Food Standards Agency has released a preliminary report on the ingredient, stating it did not have any concerns about it but would recommend it not be given to children.

The modified version of methyl cellulose, SATISFITLTG, helps to form a gel in the stomach reducing appetite.