Fats, Fibers, and Foliage

June 14, 2007

At an American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas) conference on trans fat last October, health experts worried about the law of unintended consequences. Although most food manufacturers are trying to eliminate trans fat from their products, some are simply replacing it with saturated fat, which is just as harmful. To encourage the use of healthier fats and oils, AHA embarked upon a new public relations campaign in April to urge food manufacturers, restaurants, and consumers to switch to healthier vegetable oils.

 

At an American Heart Association (AHA; Dallas) conference on trans fat last October, health experts worried about the law of unintended consequences. Although most food manufacturers are trying to eliminate trans fat from their products, some are simply replacing it with saturated fat, which is just as harmful. To encourage the use of healthier fats and oils, AHA embarked upon a new public relations campaign in April to urge food manufacturers, restaurants, and consumers to switch to healthier vegetable oils.

“Trans fat has received a lot of well-deserved scrutiny,” Robert Eckel, MD, AHA’s immediate past president, said on April 10. “While it’s critical that we continue to push aggressively to minimize its consumption, trans fat is just one part of the picture. It’s equally important that we avoid increasing saturated fat in the first place.” According to Eckel, both kinds of fat elevate low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease.

In a report on the trans fat conference that appeared in the April 2007 issue of Circulation, AHA experts warned that while there are alternative fats that manufacturers can choose from, selection can be complicated. Companies must consider several factors, including availability, cost of materials, R&D expenses, supply-chain issues, and, perhaps most important, consumer acceptance.

BETTER FATS

A key part of AHA’s message is that the kinds of fat a person eats can be just as important as how much fat they eat. Over the past decade, researchers have found that people who eat a diet rich in mono- and polyunsaturated fat have a lower overall risk of mortality as well as a lower risk of cardiovascular disease than people who eat diets high in saturated and trans fat.

Trans fat, which was once touted as a healthy substitute for saturated fat, turned out to be a poor alternative. “Metabolic studies have indicated that trans fatty acids are the only fatty acids that not only increase LDL cholesterol but also decrease high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol,” Harvard University (Boston) researcher Frank Hu, MD, noted in a study on trans fat published in the March 27 issue of Circulation.

Martek Omega-3s in Journal of Neuroscience Study

 

 

While the omega-3 class of polyunsaturated fatty acids aren’t substitutes for trans and saturated fats, they do offer health benefits and are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) in foods and beverages.

One of the most recent studies on omega-3s appeared in the April 18 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience. In the study, researchers divided mice that were genetically engineered to develop Alzheimer’s-like brain lesions into four groups.

The control group received a diet containing a 10:1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids. Two other groups received a diet containing a 1:1 ratio of the fatty acids, along with supplemental amounts of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and additional omega-6 fatty acids. The fourth group received the 1:1 diet with just supplemental DHA. Martek Biosciences Corp. (Columbia, MD) supplied the DHA.

At the end of the experiment, the researchers examined the mice to detect the presence of beta amyloid and tau, proteins that can develop into plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. After three months, mice in all three test groups had fewer amlyoid and tau than mice in the control group. After six months, however, only the mice in the fourth test group-the group that received DHA alone-had fewer proteins. The researchers theorized that DHA inhibits the formation of presenilin, an enzyme involved in the creation of amyloid plaques.

“We are greatly excited by these results, which show us that simple changes in the diet can positively alter the way the brain works and lead to protection from Alzheimer’s disease pathology,” study coauthor Frank LaFerla, PhD, said on April 17.

Martek CEO Steve Dubin added that the company is looking forward to the results of two clinical trials on DHA currently under way. “The results of the research conducted by Dr. LaFerla and associates provide a potential mechanism of action for the beneficial role that DHA may have in delaying onset of the disease,” Dubin said.

 

Public health experts therefore recommend avoiding both saturated and trans fat in favor of mono- and polyunsaturated fats. Olive, canola, peanut, and avocado oils are good sources of monounsaturated fats, according to AHA, while soybean, corn, safflower, and sunflower oils are good sources of polyunsaturated fats.

While healthy fats like olive, avocado, or sunflower oil may taste good in a salad, they can’t always be used in all commercial food-processing applications, particularly those that require ingredients with a specific taste or tolerance to heat. On the other hand, recent FDA regulations requiring the labeling of trans fat have made alternative oils more appealing to manufacturers.

One of the first companies to develop a viable alternative to trans fat on a large scale was ADM (Decatur, IL), which launched a line of zero– and low– trans fat oils in 2003 called Nova Lipid. Nova Lipid oils are derived from a variety of sources that have a more favorable impact on cholesterol. In 2006, ADM expanded the line by purchasing a variety of soybeans developed by Monsanto (St. Louis). The soybeans, sold under the Vistive brand name, require less hydrogenation than other soybeans because they have a linoleic acid content of less than 3%. Monsanto expects farmers to plant an estimated 1.5 million acres of Vistive soybeans in 2007-a 300% increase over 2006.

Another company developing viable trans fat alternatives is Cargill (Minneapolis). In February, Cargill announced a licensing agreement with J.M. Smucker Co. (Orrville, OH) to manufacture and market a line of zero–trans fat food service oils and shortenings under the Crisco Professional brand name. Researchers at Penn State University (University Park, PA) and Medallion Labs (Minneapolis) tested the ingredients to ensure they met performance, taste, and nutrition parameters.

“In our testing, these Crisco Professional oils and shortenings generated outstanding taste and overall frying performance, while also delivering the nutritional attributes preferred by today’s food service operators,” Peter Bordi, PhD, director of research and development for Penn State’s Center for Food Innovation, said on February 22.

THE CASE FOR SOLUBLE FIBER

Any food or beverage label will tell you that the average 2000-to-2500–calorie diet should include 20–30 g of dietary fiber. Any nutritionist will tell you that Americans fall short of the mark. According to USDA, the typical diet consists of a mere 10–13 g per day, roughly the same amount consumed in 1990. Knowing their work is cut out for them, formulators are trying to make up the deficit with fiber-enriched foods and beverages.

One ingredient getting attention is soluble oat beta-glucan. Unlike insoluble fiber, which passes through the intestinal tract as bulk, soluble fiber interacts with other body processes, producing a variety of health benefits such as improved cholesterol, improved glycemic response, glucose management, and increased satiety.

Kristina Williams, director of marketing at Cevena (Edmonton, AB, Canada), says these health benefits derive only from viscous soluble fiber that combines with water in the stomach to form a soft gel. “FDA has recognized that the viscosity formation is a key property for the physiological effects of consuming soluble fiber,” she says. “But not all soluble fibers are viscous.”

The distinction is so important, the National Academy of Sciences’ (Washington, DC) Institute of Medicine (IOM) proposed changing the terms insoluble and soluble to fermentable and viscous. IOM feels that the change, while likely to confuse consumers, more accurately depicts the physiological effects on the body.

In March 2007, a human clinical trial reported that viscous fibers such as oat beta-glucan and guar gum have been shown to decrease blood LDL cholesterol concentrations in both animal studies and clinical intervention trials. The research also found that consumption of oat beta-glucan could interfere with the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol and could delay gastric emptying, reducing blood glucose concentrations.

The target market for soluble viscous fibers is enormous. According to Williams, nearly 100 million Americans have high or borderline high cholesterol. Glycemic-response applications include 17 million Americans with diabetes and 16 million with prediabetes. Approximately 60% of all cases of type 2 diabetes can be prevented, or at least delayed, by changing diet and exercise habits. Finally, the weight-loss market includes 130 million overweight or obese Americans.

Cevena’s Viscofiber works by combining with water to form a soft gel in the intestinal tract. This soft gel has been scientifically shown to trap bile acid within the intestinal tract and carry it out of the body as waste. The liver then removes dietary cholesterol from the bloodstream to produce and replace the lost bile.

Applications include dietary supplements, such as capsules or powdered drink mixes. In addition, soluble fiber is kosher and generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for use in a number of food applications, including beverages, nutritional bars, yogurt, ice cream, pasta, baked goods, and cereals.

Some consumer education will be necessary, says Williams. But the problem is hardly insurmountable. “Most consumers are aware that fiber is good for them, but they do not necessarily know the difference between soluble and insoluble or viscous and nonviscous fibers,” she says. “Nor do they know which ones are effective for which health benefits. Yet consumers are increasingly interested in improving their diets. Because it is connected to multiple health benefits, there is great potential for Viscofiber as an ingredient in supplements and food.”

FUNCTIONAL FIBERS AND STARCHES

Public health experts and food manufacturers are paying close attention to the role that fibers and starches can play in improving the nutritional content of foods. Some fibers and starches can also act as texturizers or fat replacers, in addition to offering health benefits.

For instance, NutraCea’s (Phoenix) stabilized rice bran (SRB), contains a range of nutrients but can also be used as a functional ingredient in foods and beverages. “Over 120 antioxidants and cofactors have been identified in rice bran so far,” says Rani Patel, PhD, NutraCea’s chief science officer. Patel notes that SRB contains gamma oryzanol, tocopherols, tocotrienols, polyphenols, phytosterols, carotenoids, phospholipids, polysaccharides, amino acids, B vitamins, and enzymes. In addition, SRB has a 29% fiber content.

New Study Links CLA to Fat Decrease

 

 

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) may reduce fat mass in specific areas of the body, according to a new study published in the April 2007 British Journal of Nutrition.

In the study, Norwegian researchers gave either a placebo or 3.4 g of CLA per day to 118 men and women. After six months, the researchers found that not only did the CLA induce overall weight loss, it also appeared to cause an average of 4.4 lb of weight loss specifically in the waist and leg areas.

“With so many overweight and obese people out there for weight loss, it is important to find healthy ways to decrease body fat,” says Bob Rasmus, sales director at Lipid Nutrition (Channahon, IL), which supplied its Clarinol CLA for use in the study. “This latest research on Clarinol CLA further supports Lipid Nutrition’s commitment to scientifically based ingredients that have a healthy benefit for consumers.”

 

According to Margie Adelman, NutraCea’s senior vice president, protein concentrates derived from rice bran compare favorably to casein and soy protein isolates, making the ingredient a useful addition to functional foods. “The food world is just catching on to the incredible potential and versatility of stabilized rice bran in functional-food formulations,” Adelman says.

NutraCea recently announced an agreement with ADM Rice Inc. (Arbuckle, CA), enabling the company to use ADM’s Arbuckle plant to boost its SRB output. Production from the new plant is scheduled to begin in June. “We have aligned ourselves with one of the most recognized and respected names in the agricultural industry with a global presence, and we look forward to additional opportunities to expand the current usage of our SRB by ADM as a value-added ingredient,” says NutraCea president and CEO Brad Edson.

Another high-fiber ingredient with functional properties is MGP Ingredients Inc.’s (Atchison, KS) FiberRite RW, a resistant wheat starch with a smooth texture and neutral flavor. The ingredient also acts as a partial fat-replacer, making it a strong candidate for baked goods, confections, frozen desserts, sauces, and salad dressings. “FiberRite RW is an ideal solution for food manufacturers seeking to address consumer demands for better nutrition without sacrificing taste and texture,” says Steve Ham, MGP’s director of marketing.

A third ingredient, MeadowPure O3 Ultra, combines the benefits of flax and fish oil to provide a full spectrum of fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. Pizzey’s Milling (Gurnee, IL) manufactures the ingredient using a patented process that encapsulates fish oil into milled flaxseed, which stabilizes and deodorizes the oil.

According to Pizzey’s Milling president Linda Pizzey, omega-3 products are projected to reach $7 billion in sales by 2011. Foods and supplements containing the omega-3s docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) should account for nearly three-fourths of the market, while products containing alpha-linoleic acid (ALA) should command about a one-third share.

“MeadowPure O3 Ultra is in line with this trend and it allows food manufacturers to quickly move their products to the next level in the omega-3 market,” Pizzey says. “The pairing of these two omega-3 powerhouses negates the ALA vs. DHA/EPA debate. MeadowPure O3 Ultra provides the best of both worlds.”