Time to change your oil

There are good fats and bad fats; next year, trans fats are going to be very bad.

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By Kantha Shelke, Ingredients Editor

Ingredient suppliers are frantically developing specialty fats for various applications to help out food processors who must remove trans fats by the end of next year or share the harsh spotlight that will be shone upon them.

Recent research shows that commercially produced trans fatty acids are to a large extent responsible for the development of cardiovascular diseases. They also may have a negative impact on fetus weight and may be connected to Type 2 diabetes. The mounting evidence motivated the public health sectors to develop a clearer understanding of the health implications of fats on consumer health and wellness.

The FDA ruling requires that processors clearly declare the amount of trans fat on the Nutrition Facts panel by Jan. 1, 2006 (at least for foods with more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving). 2005 is expected to be a year of much debate and public education about the dangers of trans fats, so this simple label declaration will not go unnoticed. Already, numerous food marketers are bringing out reformulated products — from Golden Oreos to new Goldfish — trumpeting the fact that trans fats have been removed.

The anti-trans fat movement has important implications on food processing and health.

Good fats and bad fats

Food processors are now faced with the formidable task of educating consumers on "good fats" and "bad fats." That’s especially daunting since the nutrition advisers of this country spent most of the 1990s preaching that all fats are bad.
A PRIMER ON OILS

Some oils are better for you than others, and some oils perform better than others in food processing.

For years, health experts advised Americans to restrict fat consumption. Now, they are quietly adding that fats are a source of essential nutrition and necessary in the diet.

The trick is to consume the right kind of fat in the appropriate amount, since all oils are the same when it comes to calories but significantly different in composition and nutritional attributes. Fats and oils contribute about 9 calories per gram; the term "light" refers only to the taste and not the nutritional makeup of oils.

Oils are either saturated or unsaturated. When unsaturated, they may be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Oils are not homogenously made up of just one type of fat. Rather, each is a combination of the saturated and unsaturated fats in distinct proportions, unique to the source from which they are derived.

Saturated fats are derived primarily from animal sources, although a few come from vegetable sources such as coconut and palm. Saturated fats such as margarine and vegetable shortening are commercially produced by the partial or complete saturation of oils – this transformation is chemically induced and is accompanied by solidification of its normal liquid state.

This process, called hydrogenation, adds extra hydrogen atoms to double bonds and reduces them to single bonds, thereby converting unsaturated fat into saturated fat. When the hydrogen atoms are added on the same plane, the cis form of the fatty acid results. Addition of hydrogen on the opposite planes creates the trans form of the fatty acid – the unhealthiest of all fats and shown to be the number one cause of heart disease.

Their unique nutritional makeup, distinct flavor, and melting points render some oils more appropriate for certain uses than others. Strategies to replace hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats with alternatives therefore depend largely on the application and on the nature of the replacement ingredient.

Media sensationalism has pretty much convinced consumers that all hydrogenated fats contain trans fats. The general press has done little to address the beneficial effects of the other components of partially hydrogenated fats. Despite an Aug. 11 Wall Street Journal story, "Fat bounces back," there has been little press about "good fats," such as monounsaturated fats, which can reduce cholesterol.

Since consumers are translating "partially hydrogenated" on nutrition labels to mean trans fats, many are abandoning some perfectly good food products for the wrong reasons. For example when consumers learned that partially hydrogenated fat was added to peanut butter to help prevent separation, shoppers did not realize the trans fats were added at such low levels that they could not be detected. Instead, they removed peanut butter from their shopping lists.

Many consumers do not know trans fats also occur in nature and are naturally present in dairy, meat, and poultry products as the result of bacterial biohydrogenation. Biohydrogenation produces trans fats that differ chemically from those produced commercially and generally in levels well below the labeling threshold.

The absence of a daily value for trans fats and the FDA’s suggested footnote on labels that "Intake of trans fats should be as low as possible" could delude consumers into believing they can eliminate trans fats from their diets if they consume foods with no trans fat declarations on their labels. But the labeling practice of rounding out as zero levels below 1 gram per serving could mean consumers are still getting trans fats in their diets. This issue is magnified further when one considers that consumers often eat more than a single serving, especially if it is one of their favorite foods.

In addition, while some food formulators have switched to unsaturated "good" fats or new biotechnologically engineered heart-healthy oils, others are opting for highly saturated fats, which can cause other health problems. Consumers may thus be driven to select foods higher in saturated fats and continue to face higher risks of heart disease.

Hydrogenation solutions

Hydrogenation was a solution in the early 1900s to the food industry’s need for a more stable and economical alternative to lard and tallow. The discovery that controlling the extent of hydrogenation could control the composition and the physical properties of the hydrogenated material led to the evolution of hydrogenated fats custom-tailored to various applications. For nearly a century, consumers enjoyed the benefits: affordable, tasty, extended shelf-life foods with enhanced textures.
NOTE TO PLANT OPS

Talk with the R&D staff during the search for a trans fat replacer. Make sure the replacement fat or oil doesn’t require additional blending steps … or equipment, for that matter. One of the benefits of hydrogenation and fats in general is they make food materials soft and malleable, even at room temperatures. Any change in that malleability will impact machinery and processing steps.

The quest for hydrogenation alternatives arose when medical research discovered the side effects of trans fats, which are by-products of hydrogenation.

The current drive to minimize consumption and the regulations to declare their levels on product labels have further motivated the food industry to seek viable alternatives.

Replacing or reducing trans fats entails from a formulation standpoint the replacement of specific amounts of specific components of fats. This may be achieved by one or more of the following: finding new oil sources, biotechnological methods, enzymatic conversion or physical blending of naturally saturated fats with unsaturated, non-hydrogenated oils. All seek to create the desired functionality without negatively impacting the nutritional and flavor characteristics. Several factors have limited the application of many of these methods.

Naturally trans fat-free

The search for new oil sources has prompted a new look at what canola, safflower and palm oils have to offer. Spectrum Naturals Organic Shortening (www.spectrumorganic.com), Petaluma, Calif., claims to be the first all-vegetable shortening free of hydrogenated oils and trans fats available in retail stores. The products have been available since 2000 but gained attention in the marketplace only recently.
Healthful by nature

Canola--As agri-food companies reformulate their products to reduce or eliminate trans fats, canola oil is well positioned as a replacement. "High oleic canola oils for the processing industry are responses to the demands of health professionals and consumers to reduce trans fats in processed food products," according to Penny Mah, senior trade director, Agriculture & Food Branch, Alberta Economic Development (AED). Mark Norris, AED minister, points out, "Canadian producers are working hard to increase awareness of the health benefits of canola oil and to develop new products for domestic and international markets."

Canola oil comes from canola seed – a seed that was developed using traditional plant breeding methods to remove undesirable qualities in rapeseed. Canola oil is as different from rapeseed oil as olive oil is from corn oil.

Canola oil fatty acid composition is consistent with recommendations aimed at reducing the amount of saturated fat in the diet. Canola oil is low in saturated fatty acids (less than 7 percent of the total), very high in oleic acids (61 percent), and intermediate in polyunsaturated fatty acids (32 percent) with a good balance between the omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids.

Olive oil-- It took a while for Americans to appreciate the nutritional value of olive oil. Now, the FDA is considering a qualified health claim for the oil, ironically before a similar designation is approved in Europe.

Of the three petitions filed for qualified health claims, two pertain to fats and oils – one for olive oil and the other for omega-3 fish oils. The olive oil petition, filed by the Olive Oil Assn., was accompanied by a comprehensive review of the scientific literature and included a summary of some 70 clinical trials.

The basic claim is that when olive oil is part of a diet that’s low in unsaturated fat, it helps reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, particularly when it replaces saturated fats. Replacing a high-carb/low-fat diet with a moderate-fat diet including olive oil results in positive effect on total and LDL cholesterol. Several studies have shown that olive oil and monounsaturated fatty acids lower lipid levels in serum without the susceptibility to oxidation.

When Crisco, synonymous with trans fat, announced its launch of a trans fat-free product recently, Spectrum president/CEO Neil Blomquist publicly indicated his pleasure "in seeing such a mainstream icon as Crisco make a first step toward a more natural product." He added, "Now we’d like to encourage all producers of vegetable-based shortenings and spreads to follow this important new step in removing trans fats entirely from their product lines."

Aromatic Inc. (www.aromatic.se), Westport, Conn., emulsifies liquid vegetable oils with natural plant extracts to produce the "shortening" functionality of hydrogenated fats, according to Pam Galvin, director of sales and marketing. Aromatic Alpha-gel 305 and CakeGel are particularly economical solutions for wholesale bread and cake bakers and are key ingredients in trans fat-free hamburger buns for McDonald’s.

While cost and taste appeared to have played a role in why McDonald’s backed off last year from its original plan to replace its cooking oil with a trans fat-free alternative, the hamburger chain nevertheless has embarked on a comprehensive balanced lifestyles campaign, which addresses the needs of both children and adults. The plan, complete with menu changes and better nutrition information for its products, will "help address obesity in America and improve the nation's overall physical well-being," says Alex Conti, senior director of marketing. And it includes the reduction or elimination of trans fats in its bakery products.

Biotechnology is a long-term solution for the development of transgenic plants that can produce tailored oils naturally.

Novel lipids greasing the pipeline include Natreon, a healthful and naturally stable canola oil developed using the latest in plant breeding technology. Pablo Ilarregui, vice president of research at Dow AgroSciences LLC, (www.dowagro.com), Indianapolis, emphasizes that Natreon is not a genetically modified product; it was developed using conventional plant breeding techniques. "Its high oleic, low linolenic composition makes it a competitive alternative to partially hydrogenated oils without compromising performance and quality," he says.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is developing soybeans capable of producing oil containing less trans fat and saturated fat. Ultimately, this research could lead to the first natural oil that could also make the claim of being free of saturated fats. "The new traits have already been perfected at the agricultural end of the food chain, and the first generation materials are being tested commercially," according to David Stark, vice president of global industry partnerships.

Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill., is advancing palm oil as a replacement. Products are "meeting new opportunities in the marketplace for [removal of] trans fats, which are bound to step up as consumer awareness grows in the U.S.," says CEO Etienne Selosse.

FYI: Palm kernel oil and palm fruit oil are not the same. Palm kernel oils are rich in antioxidants and more stable than their fruit-derived counterparts with higher levels of beta-carotene and therefore deep red in color.
Fatty, oily questions

What's a trans fat? Trans fats are unsaturated fatty acids produced when liquid vegetable oils are hydrogenated into more solid or stable forms. Most trans fats come from processed foods. Trans fats also occur naturally in low amounts in some foods. In fact, about one-fifth of trans fats in the diet come from animal sources such as certain meats and dairy products.

How are trans fats created? Trans fats are created during the hydrogenation process, when hydrogen is bubbled through heated oils in the presence of a catalyst, usually nickel or platinum. The process adds hydrogen to chemical double bonds in the oil – either on the same plane to form cis, or on opposite planes to form the trans form of the saturated fatty acid. Saturated fats produced this way tend to be more stable and less likely to go rancid than healthier fats, such as olive, soy, corn and canola oils.

Why are trans fats bad? Research demonstrates that trans fatty acids raise levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol, which can clog arteries. They also decrease the "good" HDL cholesterol, which is needed to carry bad cholesterol out of the body. Trans fats also are believed to "reprogram" how cells work, causing damage that can lead to diabetes and stroke.

What are the dietary recommendations for trans fats? There is no recommended daily value for trans fats. The National Academy of Science /Institute of Medicine (NAS/IOM) has declared trans fats are not essential, provide no known health benefit and should be consumed as little as possible. NAS/IOM recognizes some foods naturally contain small amounts of trans fats, making it difficult to consume no trans fats.

What foods contain trans fats? Trans fats are present in variable amounts in a wide range of foods and are predominantly found in baked goods and fried foods, as well as some margarine products made from partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats also occur naturally in low amounts in certain meats and dairy products.

Ciranda Inc. (www.ciranda.com), Hudson, Wis., created Ciranda’s Palmfruit, an organic trans fat-free shortening without hydrogenation by blending appropriate amounts of oleic (liquid) and stearic (solid) fractions of oils. The shortening is effective in a variety of baked goods such as crackers, cookies, biscuits, pie and tart shells and breads, and is suitable as creaming agent for sandwich cookie fillings.

Kraft Foods employed palm oil in combination with canola oil to successfully launch Nabisco Golden Oreos as a trans fat-free alternative to the iconic cookie, which has been made with hydrogenated soybean oil. Blended tropical oils, however, face some resistance because of their increased saturated fatty acid levels.

Enzymes are useful for custom-tailoring the composition and amount of triglycerides for creating the appropriate combination of melting point, flavor, and thereby, performance during processing.

Interesterification is a feasible alternative to hydrogenation and may be simply explained as the exchange and rearrangement of fatty acid chains on glycerol molecules in the oil. This alteration may be brought about by chemicals or enzymes and may be tailored in terms of the type and composition of fatty acids in the fat, thereby helping to create the desired properties and functionality.

Chemicals, used currently to induce the conversion reaction are generally toxic and require the treated oils to be washed. Enzymatic conversion is specific, more efficient and allows for controlling the extent and characteristics of the end product.

"Until recently the prohibitive cost of enzymes prevented the technology from being commercially viable," says Mike Rath, senior marketing manager at Archer Daniels Midland (www.admworld.com), Decatur, Ill. He credits Lipozyme TL IM from Novozymes (www.novozymes.com), Franklinton, N.C., for a more cost-effective way to produce more natural fats in contrast to the traditional processing methods of chemical interesterification and partial hydrogenation.

Paradoxical fats

As paradoxical as it might seem, scientific research has indeed demonstrated that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) can help overweight people reduce body fat and increase lean muscle mass. CLA is part of the omega-6 fatty acid and occurs naturally primarily in milk, beef and dairy products.

Research has shown CLA’s mechanism mimics that of omega-3 fatty acids and that it may help maintain cardiovascular health and healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels. It also may help control body weight when used in conjunction with diet and exercise.

Loders Croklaan’s panel of experts evaluated the safety of Clarinol branded CLA and concluded that it was generally recognized as safe for use in milk-based meal replacements, yogurt products, salad dressings, frozen or shelf-stable meat-, fish- and poultry-based meals, and nutritional bars. David Lewis, business unit manager at Loders Croklaan, reportedly expects rapid adoption of CLA by food companies because of the growing concern for weight management.

Safflower oil, which contains the highest levels of linoleic acid of all vegetable oils, is the starting raw material for the commercial production of CLA. The wealth of intellectual property of the entire CLA market is effectively controlled by the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, Madison, Wis. (www.warf.ws). Ironically, CLA is just beginning to appear in nutrition bars and in capsules, gels and powders in the U.S., while it already has significant inroads in foods and beverages in Europe.

Another weight-loss oil with tremendous promise in the marketplace is Enova Oil, licensed by Archer Daniels Midland from Kao Corp. (www.kao.co.jp) of Japan. Enova is derived from soy and canola and yields comparable amounts of fat and calories as conventional oils. In the human body, however, Enova converts into diacylglycerol, a fat that is metabolized by the body. Therefore, it contributes energy and ultimately to loss in weight.

Even priced at approximately four times the price of conventional cooking oils, it became the best selling cooking oil in Japan in less than five years under the brand name Ecana. ADM is hoping for similar success in the states.

Formulation and processing impact

The factors that have limited the introduction of low or no trans fat alternatives are functionality, viable technology, availability, economics and strength of scientific evidence, according to the Institute of Shortening and Edible Oils, Washington, D.C.
TRANS FAT-FREE SNACKING

The U.S Dept. of Agriculture estimates hydrogenated oils to be present in about 40 percent of food on grocery store shelves.

Cookies, popcorn and chips are significant sources of trans fats in the American diet. Yet, consumers do not have to forgo these simple pleasures, thanks to the innovative efforts of firms like The Hain Celestial Group, (www.hain-celestial.com) Melville, N.Y.

Terra Exotic Vegetable Chips come
in a variety of flavors without containing any artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, hydrogenated oils or cholesterol. Cookie cravers can reach out for products such as Health Valley's new Cookie Cremes, which contain no hydrogenated oils.

Replacement of solid hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats with liquid non-hydrogenated oils depends on the application and its reliance for the desired processing and end-product characteristics on the solid content and melting point profiles. Fatty acid chain length and degree of saturation are among the myriad of fatty acid attributes that affect melting profile and other properties crucial to the development of taste and texture.

For example, potato chips rely on the post-frying residue of fat solids for proper adherence of salt and other spices. Changing the composition of frying oils and shortenings therefore affects the end product considerably. Laminated baked goods such as croissants and puff pastry develop layers as the result of fat melting at specific points during the baking process. Compositional change greatly changes the melting profile and will therefore affect the development of layers in the bakery product.

For processors, as always, economics plays a critical role in ingredient replacement. The key to successful trans fat replacement is for oil processors to create, customize or blend oils that will have functionalities similar to that of their predecessors but without the negative implications.

The call for trans fat replacements is really a tall order. The new, trans fat-free version of any product must economically provide the shelf-stability, taste and texture without requiring expensive capital investments for new equipment or changes in processing configuration or storage and handling conditions.

Whether food companies develop healthier products by dropping trans fats, adding more healthful oils or even by reducing the fat content of their offerings, one message rings loud and clear: moderation is the key to success. If consumers would limit their consumption to the recommended serving size and not indulge in any one kind of food, the trace amounts of trans fats they consume will be insignificant to their health and, ultimately, their waistlines. It appears the key is to somehow create the tastiest of foods that satisfies consumers easily and encourages them to stick to moderate servings.

Concealed goodness for school foodservice

Childhood obesity is one of the hottest topics in the food industry. Food formulators are focused more than ever to take out the "bad" from foods and add in the "good." Yet, health-promoting ingredients have made remarkably little progress to date in this arena. This situation might change soon since schools and public health systems are stepping in to enhance the quality of foods offered to our youth.

"Figuring out a way to get all the goodness down the throats of our young’uns without their knowing what they ate seems to be the best approach," according to Liborio Hinojosa, CEO of H&H Foods (www.hhfoods.com), Mercedes, Tex. The company, responding to Texas school officials’ desire to provide children with healthier eating choices, developed fortified food products made from taste- and odor-free liquid and powder omega-3 fatty acids. The bold move by the Texas school system indicates functional foods have an important role in children’s health. Concealing the fish oil was critical to the success of the products since children tend to formulate opinions about foods with their eyes, noses and hearsay before they even taste them. According to Hinojosa, the inclusion of omega-3s raised the cost of servings by less than a cent – well worth the benefits.
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