Low-fat cheeses and cakes that are just as tempting as full-fat equivalents could be heading for supermarket shelves, thanks to fresh insights into how proteins can replace fats without affecting foodstuffs’ taste and texture. Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), a team at Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh has produced modified proteins that easily break down into micro-particles and therefore closely mimic the behaviour of fats during food manufacture. Protein-for-fat substitution is not a completely new idea, but to date it has been restricted to products such as yogurts. By studying the proteins’ chemical structure, the team has developed a detailed understanding of how they behave when they are heated or undergo other food manufacturing processes. The team has achieved particularly promising results in using proteins to replace eggs, an ingredient commonly used as a gelling agent in bakery items.
The research will now be taken forward by project partner Nandi Proteins, who will use the findings to extend their range of proteins with a view to food manufacturers incorporating them in new low-fat products that could start reaching the shops within two years. As part of a Technology Strategy Board-supported Knowledge Transfer Partnership, the research team is now also developing a computer model to help food manufacturers pinpoint the optimum level of protein-for-fat replacement for particular products.
Dr Steve Euston of Heriot-Watt University, who has led the project, says: “We’ve paved the way for the development of modified proteins that, by closely mimicking fat, can be used to produce a wider range of appealing low-fat foods.
Lydia Campbell, Chief Technology Officer for Nandi Proteins, says: “EPSRC funding allowed the scientific investigation of the underlying science of Nandi technology, and the outcomes will add significantly to the confidence with which the technology can be deployed across the UK and internationally. International Shipping - items may be subject to customs processing depending on the item's declared value. Your country's customs office can offer more details, or visit eBay's page on international trade. Estimated delivery dates - opens in a new window or tab include seller's handling time, origin ZIP Code, destination ZIP Code and time of acceptance and will depend on shipping service selected and receipt of cleared payment - opens in a new window or tab. This item will be shipped through the Global Shipping Program and includes international tracking. Will usually ship within 1 business day of receiving cleared payment - opens in a new window or tab. Schlesinger shows the home cook how to prepare both familiar and exotic produce in exciting new ways.
The proteins will enable food manufacturers to remove much of the fat used in their products without compromising on product quality.
In cheeses and cakes it has proved less successful in ensuring the authentic taste and texture vital to consumer satisfaction, mainly because proteins could not mimic the behaviour of fats closely enough. This has provided the basis for modifying proteins so that they can be used as effective fat substitutes.
Such substitution not only cuts fat content; because eggs can be subject to significant price volatility, it could also cut the cost of products and so encourage consumers to eat more healthily.
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The proteins could encourage development of a wider choice of low-fat foods, helping consumers to eat more healthily and reducing obesity in the UK and elsewhere.
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