Food ingredients

The Low Sat Fats trend in the food market

It is long gone now that fatty foods were seen only as appetizing and desirable. Not that this perception has completely changed, but now society is more attentive to the ills of an inadequate diet.

Due to the notable increase in cardiovascular diseases and other problems related to the consumption of saturated fats, new trends appear in the market and need to be considered in food production.

The concern also increases regarding the use of hydrogenated fats, which is one of the responsible factors for the rise in LDL cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol.

It is no surprise that the World Health Organization (WHO) has revised its recommendations for the consumption of saturated fats, proposing that this type of nutrient is limited to a maximum of 10% of the total calories consumed individually.

Especially regarding trans fats, the recommendations are that they represent only 1% of the value because of the proven impacts on the health of consumers, still according to WHO.

In addition;

Changes in legislation in several countries also point to the need of seeking for alternatives to trans fats.

In the healthy eating trend, low-saturation fats, also known as low-sat fats, have become favorites among the options available for purchase.

In this blog post we will talk about the good practices and benefits of using low sat fats, which are essential to R&D professionals who wish to adapt their formulations to this trend and end the consumption of trans fats.

Oils and Fats: Chemical Aspects

Oils and fats are mostly formed by triglycerides (approximately 98%). The basic structure of it consists of a glycerol molecule esterified to three fatty acids.

Fatty acids can be saturated, having no double chain linkages or unsaturated if they contain one (monounsaturated) or more (polyunsaturated) unsaturated parts. In nature, with the exception of conjugated linoleic acid, the double bonds of the unsaturated fatty acids are in the cis geometric configuration.

These characteristics are reflected in the physical form of oils and fats. Oils have a predominance of unsaturated fatty acids in their composition, being liquids at room temperature.

The fats, on the other hand, because they are predominantly saturated, are solid at room temperature.

There are processes, however, that are able to modify the physical state of the oils so that they gain new functionalities.

The conversion of oils into fats

Vegetable oils such as sunflower, soybeans and corn oils, for example, usually go through the process of partial hydrogenation, turning into fats to be used in the manufacture of margarines, confectionery, among others.

Throughout this catalytic hydrogenation process, the isomerization of some of the double bonds of the fatty acids occurs, modifying them to the trans geometric configuration.

The goal is to increase the melting point of these fats to obtain more consistency according to the needs of the desired product.

Hydrogenation also helps to stabilize oxidative processes to increase the shelf life of products, since unsaturated fatty acids are more susceptible to oxidation.

The consumption of this type of fat is related to a higher incidence of cardiovascular diseases. Studies indicate that trans fats are responsible for increased LDL levels and decreased HDL. That is why its consumption is regulated by laws that govern the manufacture processes of products and medical indications to avoid them as much as possible.

However;

It is important to note that complete elimination of fats is also not adequate. They have an important function in the organism, such as being part of the constitution of cell membranes and acting in a regulatory manner in several vital functions.

In addition to being a source of energy, oils and fats are also carriers of fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, K).

Many oils, such as soybean oil, canola and fish oil, are still sources of essential fatty acids, which can only be obtained through diet.

Therefore, the challenge of the formulators is the use of fats that bring flavor, functionality and nutrients to their products, but with no harm to the health of consumers.

In this sense, advances in the area of ​​ingredients already bring new alternatives.

Technologies to produce healthier fats

New fats have been produced, promoting an adaptation to the current reality of the market and to the requirements of the regulatory agencies, while at the same time making it possible to maintain patterns of structure and palatability.

In Brazil;

ANVISA (National Sanitary Surveillance Agency) has determined that for a food to be considered “free of trans fats, low trans fats or low sat fats it has to respect the following limits in the final product”:

•  Maximum of 0.2g of trans fat per portion;
•  Maximum of 2g of saturated fat per portion.

One possibility to produce fats meeting these specifications is interesterification.

With this process, it is possible to produce fats that are not trans, without losing the plastic priorities. For this, mixtures of liquid oils (Ex: soybean) and vegetable fats (Ex: palm fat) are used. By doing this, interesterified vegetable oils are produced, which can be considered zero trans.

This technology does not alter the structure of the fatty acids, only promotes a redistribution of it in the molecule of triglyceride, guaranteeing new sensorial, physical and chemical properties.

The interesterification may be chemical or enzymatic. In chemistry, the reaction is catalyzed by the addition of alkaline catalysts. In the enzymatic one, lipases are used, being this interesterification more advantageous due to the specificity of the enzyme and being more environmentally friendly.

Another type of modification of oils and fats is fractionation. In this process, the triglycerides are separated into two or more fractions. This is done by partial crystallization followed by separation through filtration of the solid and liquid fractions. One example is palm oil, which can be fractionated in olein (liquid, rich in unsaturated) and stearin (solid, rich in saturates).

Low sat fats

Although liquid oil is the best alternative to health, if used alone, it has a few limitations. Its liquid texture does not allow the production of certain foods, such as margarine, toppings, ice creams, among others.

This limitation can be defeated with the use of low saturation fats, also known as low sat.

To produce these fats, a vegetable oil of interest is mixed with a structuring agent. This structure forms a three-dimensional network that captures the oil, giving it, the structuring needed for certain applications.

We can number some properties of low sat fats:

•  Physically, they have a solid structure;
•  A large amount of liquid oil is trapped;
•  Replace lipid systems enriched by saturated fatty acids.

It is interesting to note that the results obtained in the production of low sat fat depend on both the type of oil used and the structuring agent.

Other technologies used to produce these fats are the addition of agents that promote the crystallization of the fat.

Among the structuring agents, we can highlight the emulsifiers monoglycerides, diglycerides and food-property waxes such as beeswax, sugar cane, among others.

In this way, it is possible to achieve a zero trans product with saturated fat percentages between 35% and 40%, according to the needs of each industry and with high impact on the health of the product.

Low sat fats are already available on the market and can be bought to form formulations that require the palatability and functional properties characteristic of fats.

Among the benefits of using fat, we can highlight the easy handling, good homogenization with the other ingredients in the formulation, besides promoting brightness and flavor to the final product. All this combined with practices that ensure the presence of healthier fats, increasing the acceptance of products by consumers.

Conclusion

Low sat oils and fats represent a major trend in the food industry and are ingredients that tend to be increasingly demanded by the market.

In Brazil, the trend is still increasing. There are good quality alternatives on the market that can perfectly substitute fats with high saturation and trans fat, with satisfactory results in the final product.

Therefore, it is possible to update and incorporate this trend into new formulations, maintaining competitive prices, while delivering quality to the consumer.

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