Fake Fats

Fat plays an important part in a healthy human diet. It is a concentrated source of energy, and is especially useful in the diets of growing children. It is the only source of essential fatty acids to the human body, and also helps in the absorption and utilization of fat-soluble vitamins. However, fat consumed in excess, can increases the risk of obesity, heart diseases and certain cancers.

Health-conscious consumers are modifying their dietary habits and eating food with less fat and calories. They are on a look out for foods, which not only meet their requirements of being low in fat and calories but also taste good. Food manufacturers therefore are in a constant search for the elusive " ideal fat substitute" that tastes and functions like conventional fat without the potential adverse health impact. Some fat substitutes with trade names such as Olestra, Simplesse and Oatrim are already in the market and are being used to manufacture a variety of foods, including cheese, chips, frozen deserts and candy.

Olestra: Formed by chemical combination of sucrose (cane sugar) with fatty acids, olestra has properties similar to naturally occurring fat.

It can be used for frying, baking and cooking like natural fat. Olestra is stable at high cooking temperatures and therefore can be used in a lot of different food products. But, unlike natural fat this synthetic substitute provides no calories or saturated fat because it is not digested in the human body.

Olestra fulfills the needs of those who want to cut back on fat, yet, enjoy their favorite snacks which are traditionally high in fat. As olestra is not absorbed, some individuals report intestinal discomfort or a laxative effect after eating foods prepared with it.

One disadvantage of the product is that it may lead to the excretion of fat-soluble vitamins present in food eaten at the same time. Regulatory bodies, therefore, require that olestra products need to be fortified with these nutrients to prevent any deficiency.

Simplesse: Simplesse is made of egg white or milk proteins processed into mist-like particles similar to the consistency of fat. It tastes and feels like fat and so helps cut back on as much as 80% of the calories in desserts like ice creams, yogurts and salad dressings. Simplesse cannot be used for frying or baking, as the proteins in it tend to coagulate at high heat.

Oatrim: Made from oat fibre, Oatrim is stable when heated and can be used to reduce the calorie content of desserts by half. However, it cannot be used at frying temperatures.

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