U of G Research Points the Way to Healthier Hot Dogs

March 30, 2012 - News Release

The latest study by food science professors Shai Barbut and Alejandro Marangoni and PhD candidate Alexander Zetzl offers good news for backyard barbecues: healthier hot dogs may be on the menu soon.

The paper explains that frankfurters made with a combination of canola oil and a modified fibre — similar to the fibre we consume in fruits and vegetables — instead of traditional pork and beef fat have the same flavour and mouth feel we've come to expect from a hot dog, without the negative health impact that comes with consuming large amounts of saturated fat.

The World Health Organization still ranks cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death worldwide, and research has shown that consuming less saturated fat is better for the heart. Marangoni, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Food, Health and Aging, points out that frankfurters can contain up to 25 per cent fat, almost 60 per cent of which is saturated. A 100-gram frankfurter can deliver as much as 15 grams of saturated fat. The American Heart Association recommends a maximum daily intake of less than 20 g of saturated fat per day.

But animal fat is an important component of many foods, including frankfurters, and is difficult to replace without sacrificing texture and taste.

“Frankfurters become very rubbery and unpalatable if you simply put liquid vegetable oil where solid beef fat had been,” said Marangoni. “We discovered that oils can be gelled with the modified fibre and have the functionality of beef and pork fat in a frankfurter or sausage. Canola oil is one of the healthiest and most highly consumed vegetable oils in the world, so we have the dual benefit of reducing the total saturates, plus replacing them with polyunsaturates and omega-3 fatty acids.”

Previous research has shown that canola oil contains the lowest levels of saturated fat compared with other vegetable oils such as soybean and flaxseed oil.

“Hopefully this opens the door to the use of food-grade oleogels in a variety of meat products," said Marangoni. "It may not turn the humble hot dog into health food, but as long as ‘franks’ remain popular barbecue and picnic fare, we might as well try to make them better for us.”

The research, funded by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs, was published in Food and Function and highlighted in a Scientific American article this month.

Alejandro Marangoni
Department of Food Science
University of Guelph
519-824-4120, Ext. 54340

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs: Lori Bona Hunt, 519-824-4120, Ext. 53338, or lhunt@uoguelph.ca, or Shiona Mackenzie, Ext. 56982, or shiona@uoguelph.ca.

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