A Look at Fat Substitutes
Written by Gloria Tsang, RD
The war on fat in the past decades drove
food manufacturers to replace fat in many food items. One way
is to continue providing the creamy texture and quality of fat
but not its caloric content by using fat substitutes.
Fat substitutes can be divided into 3 categories:
Sugar-based fat substitutes:
e.g. dextrins, maltodextrins, modified food starches, cellulose
and various gums.
They are the ancestors of fat substitutes,
which entered the market in 1960s and are still the most widely
used. They are able to replace fat's bulkiness and moistness,
but are unable to replace fat's cooking qualities. While 1 gram
of fat yields 9 kcal, these sugar-based substitutes only yield
1-4 kcal per gram.
Protein-based fat substitutes:
Simpless by NutraSweet Company
They are extracted from whey protein concentrate
of proteins from egg whites and milk. First appeared in the market
in late 80s, protein-based substitutes yield 4 kcal per gram
but are unable to withstand high heat.
Fat-based fat substitutes:
Olestra cannot be broken down by the body
for absorption and therefore passes through the GI unaltered
and provides no calories. It produces the mouthfeel of real fat
and can withstand high heat.
Concerns have been raised on its possible
side effects and its interaction with other nutrient absorption.
As it cannot be digested, Olestra can cause abdominal cramps
and diarrhea. On the other, Olestra inhibits fat-soluble vitamins
(Vit A, D, E and K) and carotenoids. Manufacturers promised to
fortify food products with the fat-soluble vitamins.
As limited studies have been conducted
in children, teens and elderly on the effect of olestra, it is
not recommended for consumption by these populations until more
comprehensive researches have been performed.