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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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.


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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