Understanding emulsions key to better low-fat foods: Study


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Some emulsions effectively emulate the texture or taste of fat, while others mimic its appearance, digestibility or the response of appetite-regulating hormones
Some emulsions effectively emulate the texture or taste of fat, while others mimic its appearance, digestibility or the response of appetite-regulating hormones

Related tags Nutrition

Designing low-fat foods requires thorough understanding of the many roles that fat plays in the way we experience foods, according to a paper published in Advances in Nutrition.

Fat is important for the many ways in which we perceive food, including the sensory experience of eating – food’s texture, flavour, and appearance – and in helping to provide a feeling of satiety, which can be useful for regulating food intake. However, emulating these characteristics provides a challenge for food manufacturers.

This latest paper examines reduced fat foods that use oil-in-water emulsions to cut fat and calorie content, and how they mimic the many properties of fat in foods and drinks.

“The numerous roles that fat droplets play in food quality usually means that a single fat replacement strategy cannot be used to create reduced-calorie products with the same desirable attributes as their full-fat counterparts,” ​wrote study author Dr David McClements of the University of Massachusetts’ Department of Food Science.

“Instead, a combination of different fat replacement strategies is needed to mimic their physicochemical, sensory, and biochemical properties.”

He suggests that better understanding of fat droplets’ multiple roles could help product developers create better reduced-calorie foods.

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Specific approaches include using biopolymer-based ingredients like gelatine, agar, alginate, carrageenan, locust bean gum, pectin, starch, and xanthan, which may improve satiety compared to fats while providing fewer calories; using inorganic ingredients like titanium dioxide, which are not digestible and provide a creamy appearance; or creating structures in foods that mimic fat properties, such as combining fat with air bubbles, polymers or inorganic ingredients, or coating fat droplets in a way that affects their digestibility.

Examples of oil-in-water emulsions include mayonnaise, dressings, sauces, condiments, milk, cream, cheese, yoghurt, nutritional beverages, and desserts. When it comes to reducing the fat content of such products, manufacturers must bear in mind consumer expectations of taste, texture and appearance, as well as their own concerns about cost, labelling and production.

“Of course, it is important to use these technologies wisely so as not to promote passive overconsumption of foods,”​ McClements wrote, suggesting that it may be preferable to reduce the calorie content of a food component, such as a sauce or dressing, rather than promoting greater consumption of traditionally high-fat foods, like milkshakes or desserts.


Source: Advances in Nutrition

Vol. 6, pp. 338s – 352s, 2015 doi: 10.3945/​an.114.006999

“Reduced-Fat Foods: The Complex Science of Developing Diet-Based Strategies for Tackling Overweight and Obesity”

Author: David J McClements


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