Snack Size Science: Air bubbles and peanuts for all

By Stephen Daniells

- Last updated on GMT

FoodNavigator's Snack Size Science brings you the week's top science. This week we look at how air bubbles may mimic fat and help with weight loss, and how antioxidant compounds may neutralise the allergens in peanut butter.

Here is a complete transcript of this podcast:

This is FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science​. I’m Stephen Daniells - bringing you the week’s top science in digestible amounts.

This week we look at science opening up new fronts in the battles against obesity and allergy. US department of agriculture scientists have reported that antioxidant compounds may neutralise allergy concerns of peanut butter, but first of all we look at how air may replace fat.

It may seem like a load of hot air, but researchers from the University of Birmingham in England report that a protein from a fungus could produce aerated emulsions with the potential to act as fat replacers in foods.

According to findings published in the Food Hydrocolloids, a protein called hydrophobin HFBII from a fungus called Trichoderma reesei​ can stabilize air bubbles in a model emulsion and trim 50 per cent off the fat content of a food.

As anyone who has ever made a chocolate mousse will know, getting the air into a food is one thing, keeping it in there is entirely another. But extended storage of the air-oil-water emulsions remained stable during storage for 45 days.

If fears over obesity were not already high, recent stats showed that one in five of America’s four-year olds already tipping the scales in the wrong direction. The Birmingham work is in its early stages, so in terms of its potential we’ll have to hold our breath.

Fat content in foods may be a concern for many, but peanuts are a different matter altogether. For some, they are a matter of life and death.

But adding antioxidant polyphenol compounds to peanut butter may reduce the level of proteins responsible for peanut allergy. Initial results published in Food Chemistry​ showed that caffeic, chlorogenic and ferulic acids could bind to the major allergens in peanut butter, such as Ara h 1 and Ara h 2. This would remove the allergens from the product.

Researchers from the US Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service moved quickly to ensure that their promising results for allergen-free peanut butter didn’t spread too much excitement too early, adding that human trials are needed to confirm if there is potential for the development such products.

With an estimated 2.5 million people in Europe and the US at the mercy of peanut allergy, it is surely vital that we shell out the money for such studies.

For FoodNavigator’s Snack Size Science, I’m Stephen Daniells.

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