Published by Communications and Public Affairs 519 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338
January 24, 2007
Prof Develops Healthy Alternative to Trans Fats
An international research team headed by a University of Guelph professor has developed an alternative to artery-clogging trans fats.
They found a new way to package oils and change them into a solid fat-like gel. In addition to providing a heart-healthy recipe for processed foods, the new structured oil regulates the release of lipids into the body, which may help fend off obesity and diabetes.
“People talk about controlled release in prescription drugs; we’re talking about controlled release of food components,” said Alejandro Marangoni, a professor in Guelph’s Department of Food Science and the holder of a prestigious Canada Research Chair in Food and Soft Materials.
"It's a completely different kind of chemistry."
Marangoni's research group found a way to mix oil, water, monoglycerides and fatty acids to form a gel substance that provides the same structural and functional benefits as trans and saturated fats.
The research, which included human trials, will be published in the next issue of Soft Matter, a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry. It was also highlighted this month in an article in Chemical Science.
“This new structured vegetable oil provides the functionality of a baking shortening used in muffins, bread, pastries and cakes, but without the dangerous side effects of trans and saturated fats,” Marangoni said. “In fact, it may even be beneficial to the body and lead to further developments in the area of controlled release of lipids.”
Trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils are currently used in many industrial food products. But their consumption alters the mix of so-called good and bad cholesterol in the blood, which in turn may increase the risk of heart disease.
In December, New York City banned the use of trans fats in all restaurants. In Canada, a federal task force last summer recommended limits on the use of these fats in processed foods.
Marangoni said that finding the correct formula to convert mixtures of oil, water, monoglycerides and fatty acids into a gel turned out to be relatively straightforward. The key challenge was to change oil, which is liquid at room temperature, to fat, which is solid at room temperature.
“We were lucky,” he said, recalling how the team came up with a substance that showed most of the desired structural properties. The gel’s high melting point means it doesn't need refrigeration.
Marangoni and his research team have been refining their work in the lab for the past several months. They hope to interest product development researchers in helping to validate their results with actual food studies.
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