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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

If they took the fat out,
What did they put in?

Have you wondered as you enjoyed your “fat-free” product what exactly was put back in the product to replace the fat? The new “fat free” products are creamy, crispy, tasty and delicious, something had to take the place of the fat, right? What is it?

Nutritionally (and emotionally) fat gets a bad rap. Fat is a major nutrient important for proper growth and development and maintenance of good health. Fats carry the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K and aid their absorption in the intestine. They are the only source of the essential fatty acids linoleic and linolenic acids. Fats are an important source of calories because they supply 9 calories of energy per gram versus 4 calories per gram for protein and carbohydrates.

On the downside there are limits on the amount we should eat because increased intake of fat is linked to heart disease, cancer and obesity. The FDA recommends an intake to no more than 30 percent of calories from fat. A weight loss surgery patient should intake even fewer fat calories because the malabsorptive system that makes digesting fats difficult.

So are we dodging the fat bullet by replacing full-fat products with light or fat free products? What are we getting in return?

In theory, the perfect fat replacement is one that contributes everything fat does in a food but without the calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. Fat replacements can help reduce a food's fat and calories while maintaining some of the desirable qualities fat brings to food, such as "mouth feel," texture and flavor. Under FDA regulations, fat replacements fall into one of two categories: food additives or "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) substances.

Fat replacements may be carbohydrate, protein or fat-based substances. The first to hit the market were carbohydrates disguised as fat. Avicel, for example, is a carbohydrate-based gel. Others in this category include dextrins, maltodextrins, fiber, gums, starch, and modified food starch. These carbohydrate fat replacements are used in a variety of foods, including dairy-type products, sauces, frozen desserts, salad dressings, processed meats, baked goods, spreads, chewing gum, and sweets.

Protein-based fat substitutes came along in the early 1990s. These and fat-based replacements were designed specifically to replace fat in foods. Protein based fat replacements are often made from whey protein or milk and egg protein. These fat replacements provide 1 to 4 calories per gram, depending on their water content, and are approved for use in frozen dessert-type foods, reduced-fat versions of butter, sour cream, cheese, yogurt, salad dressing, margarine, mayonnaise, baked goods, coffee creamer, soups, and sauces.

Finally, there are the fat-based fat replacements – most of us know the brand name Olestra. Introduced in 1996 it is used in preparing potato chips, crackers, tortilla chips, and other savory snacks. Olestra has properties similar to those of naturally occurring fat, but it provides zero calories and no fat. That's because Olestra is indigestible. It passes through the digestive tract but is not absorbed into the body. This is due to its unique configuration: a center unit of sucrose (sugar) with six, seven or eight fatty acids attached. Olestra sounds promising, but it does have some drawbacks. Studies show that it may cause intestinal cramps and loose stools in some individuals. While there is no specific data, Olestra may be particularly distressful to WLS patients who have undergone the malabsorptive procedure.

As with all things WLS, it is important to know what we are feeding our bodies, to treat them well and take all things in moderation.

1 comment:

Hummingbird1964 said...

Great piece on fat! In my experience most "fat free" foods are high in sugar. Fat not only contains the good things described in the article (taken in moderation) but it is also responsible for flavor. That's why expensive cuts of meat can taste do good...because one of the criteria for being an expensive cut of meat is the right amount of "marbleing" or fat content. Super lean means tougher and less flavor.
When companies process out the fat they process back in more sugar to increase the palatability of the product. That's why when we all followed Susan Powter ("stop the insanity") down the fat free garden path in the 80's we ballooned to new heights of weight gain.

In my humble opinion it comes down the individual and moderation. But in a society where fad's rule, I'm sure I'm in the minority opinion group.

2.5 years