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Oleogels to replace solid fats in food processing

They are obtained from a liquid vegetable oil and gelling agents, which allow the oil to become and behave as a solid fat, but with processes that do not damage the properties of the oil. Oleogels avoid the use of saturated fats, which are associated with cardiovascular problems and diseases.

These oleogels are obtained fom a liquid vegetable oil and edible gelling agents, with processes that do not damage the properties of the oil. Image: IATA-CSICA team of researchers from the CSIC's Institute of Agrochemistry and Food Technology (IATA) has developed oleogels that can be used as substitutes for solid fats in the processing of products such as bread and sausages. The work, published in the journals Algal Research and Carbohydrate Polymers, has been coordinated by Amparo López Rubio, researcher at IATA, and Marta Martínez Sanz, researcher at the Food Science Research Institute, a centre of the CSIC and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid.

Oleogels are obtained from a liquid vegetable oil and gelling agents. In the case of the IATA study, the scientists have used as a gelling agents edible carbohydrates (agars and carrageenans, from green algae), which have made it possible to obtain a structured oil that behaves similarly to solid fats, but using processes that do not damage the properties of the oil.

As Cynthia Fontes Candia, a pre-doctoral student at IATA, explains, "one of the main advantages is that oleogels can be applied to the food industry, as they can replace solid fats in different products, such as some types of bread and processed meat such as sausages. This is very interesting, because by not serving saturated fats, the result is good for the health of consumers, since the intake of saturated fats is associated with various cardiovascular problems and diseases".

According to Fontes, "we have carried out several experiments in which we added oleogels instead of fats in the production of sausages. During the study, a tasting session was carried out with 100 consumers, who accepted very well the product".

Applications in food and biomedicine

Oleogels can also be used as a carriers of healthy compounds. This would be the case, for example, of curcumin, a natural and antioxidant colorant from turmeric, which has problems of bioavailability and stability. Incorporating curcumin into oleogel makes possible, on one hand, to solubilize curcumin and, on the other hand, to provide the product to the organism as well as their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits.

The scientists are also exploring the use of oleogels for biomedical applications. For instance, they are studying the use of oleogels to simulate fat tissue for the development of imaging systems for cancer detection. A benefit of this process is that the dielectric properties of the oleogels can be tuned for this purpose. In addition, the technique is simple and inexpensive, which makes the patent very competitive in the marketplace with other products.

Contact:
Teresa Jiménez
Institute of Agrochemistry
and Food Technology (IATA) - CSIC

Tel.:96 390 00 22 (ext 3126)
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