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What are the Different Fat Substitutes?

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  • Written By: Sara Schmidt
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 07 December 2016
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In order to create healthier alternative foods, many food substitutes have been developed. Fat substitutes, or fat replacers, were invented to provide the texture and flavor of fat without the numerous calories that fat typically has. Three different main categories of fat substitutes exist. They include protein-bases substitutes, fat-based substitutes, and sugar-based substitutes.

Protein-based fat substitutes are extracted from whey protein concentrate. The concentrate is typically formed from a mixture of milk and egg whites. These substitutes cannot withstand high temperatures, and therefore cannot be cooked. Low in calories, protein-based fat substitutes yield only four calories per half ounce (gram) of food.

The most common protein-based substitute is Simplesse®, which has been used in ice cream and many other frozen desserts worldwide. Trailblazer is another example of a protein-based substitute. It can be used in other creamy foods, such as butter, mayonnaise, and sour cream.

Fat-based substitutes cannot be broken down by the body. Instead, they pass through the gastrointestinal tract without allowing the body to absorb calories. Due to its inability to be digested, a fat-based substitute can cause stomach cramping, diarrhea, and problems with nutrient absorption. Because of these effects, the substitute is not recommended for the elderly, children, or teenagers.

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Of the fat-based replacers available, the most common is Olestra®. Olestra® has been used in salad dressings, snack chips, ice cream, baked goods, cooking oil, and many other products. Caprenin is another type of fat-based substitute. It is made from coconut and palm oil acid, and unsaturated fats. Caprenin can be partially absorbed within the human body.

Sugar-based fat substitutes, also known as carbohydrate-based substitutes, come in a wide variety. These widely-used products cannot be used for cooking, though they can replace the texture of fat in store-bought products. Sugar-based substitutes provide one to four calories per half ounce (gram), and include malodextrin, cellulose, dextrins, modified food starches, and gums.

A corn-based fat substitute called Z Trim® also exists. This gel, composed nearly wholly of water, contains a small amount of fiber and is used to replace up to half the fat content of food. An odorless and tasteless ingredient, Z Trim® is also available as a powder.

Some of these fat substitutes are used to simply replace the fat content of food. Others are used to only partially replace the fat. In both ways, the substitute is designed to replicate the sense of taste and feel of regular fat in the mouth. Some studies have shown that people who incorporate these products into their diets do have a lower average caloric and fat intake, making weight loss possible. Fat itself is an important nutrient that the body requires for energy, providing essential fatty acids, cell and hormone structure, and many other uses.

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