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Hyderabad scientists synthesise novel low-calorie fats

49Studies have also indicated similarities in thermo-physical properties of bakery fats and the newly synthesised fats.

Health-conscious individuals need no longer worry about the high calorific value of the vegetable oils they consume.

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Chemical Technology (IICT), Hyderabad, have developed novel low-calorie fats based on edible oils like sunflower that provide 5.2 K cals/g as against 9 K cals/g by the vegetable oils; they have shown promising health benefits in studies conducted in rats and rabbits.

The nutritionally improved synthesised fats are trans-free and have the potential to be used as frying oil and replace bakery fats, according to Dr. R.B.N. Prasad, Head of Centre for Lipid Research, IICT. The fats have shown to lower serum, liver cholesterol and triglycerides in rats and reduce fat accumulation in arteries in rabbits.

Studies have also indicated similarities in thermo-physical properties of bakery fats and the newly synthesised fats.

He said the utility of the novel low-calorie fats was demonstrated in confectionary products prepared in collaboration with the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysuru. Its safety was also validated in collaborative studies with National Institute of Nutrition. “Basically, we have proved the concept and the technology is ready for commercialisation,”,he added.

Explaining the process of how the low-calorie fats were developed, Dr. Prasad said that basically ethyl behenic acid was incorporated into refined sunflower and soybean oils after about 25 per cent of fatty acids was removed in each of them.

Referring to beneficial effects on health, he said the low calorie fat was non-toxic and reduced serum and liver lipids, particularly cholesterol, LDL cholesterol and triglycerides while maintaining essential fatty acids. When given to rabbits, it prevented lipid accumulation in arteries. Unlike bakery biscuits, the low-calorie-based biscuits do not contain trans fatty acids, while ensuring no significant difference in the quality and sensory parameters when compared to conventional bakery biscuits.

Dr. Prasad said that the per capita consumption of vegetable oil was 14 kilos per year, which would translate into 1.1 kilos/month (35 grams a day). With the commercially available vegetable oils giving 9 k cals/g, the total calories intake would be 315 k cals/g as against only around 180 k cals/g from the same quantity of low calorie fats. He said that another major advantage with the synthesised low calorie fats was that they contain essential fatty acids which was not the case with the commercially available low-calorie fats. Overall, they lower cholesterol, provide essential fatty acids and the calorie intake would be 40 per cent less for the same quantity of commercial vegetable oils.