Scientists hail cholesterol-lowering vegetable fat discovery

Researchers at the KU Leuven university in Belgium have obtained an innovation grant from the Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (VLAIO) to test and develop a new unsaturated fat which they claim remains solid at room temperature.

The product, called Sterolife, can help food companies to develop healthy alternatives to existing high-fat products, the academics said.

For decades food companies have been searching for ways to reduce the amount of saturated fats — which can raise blood cholesterol if too much is consumed — in their products and to replace them with more heart-healthy unsaturated fats.

That’s no easy task as the two kinds of fat have different properties. Saturated fats — such as butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese – stay solid at room temperature. This is important for the texture, hardness and spreadability of the products. Unsaturated fats such as olive oil and sunflower oil are liquid and therefore do not have those structuring properties.

Researchers at KU Leuven Campus Kulak Kortrijk have succeeded in developing an unsaturated fat which remains solid at room temperature. “Our product is an odourless and colourless solid fat,” ​said Dr Eva Daels of the Food & Lipids research group. “With these properties, Sterolife can reduce the saturated fat content in products without sacrificing the quality and texture.”

Sterolife is made from plant sterols – substances that are naturally present in different plant products such as vegetables, fruit, nuts and grains, albeit in small amounts. 

“The use of plant sterols offers benefits in terms of the environment and sustainability. These substances can be found in the bypass flows of existing production processes,”​ said Professor Imogen Foubert, promoter of the research project. “This stands in stark contrast to the production of palm oil, the most consumed fat in the world. Production takes place exclusively in tropical areas and involves deforestation of the rainforest, loss of biodiversity and huge CO2 emissions.” 

Because the fat contains contains plant sterols that are not absorbed in the body, it has less energy/calories than conventional fats and oils. It also contains less saturated fat than olive oil, the researchers claimed. 

Dr Daels has obtained an innovation mandate from VLAIO (Flemish Agency for Innovation and Entrepreneurship) to further develop the product and bring it to the market in the future. It shall therefore be tested to determine if and how Sterolife can be used as an ingredient in food products. 

“Foods which are promoted as cholesterol-lowering still contain a significant amount of saturated fat. So there are still gains to be made in that area and we hope to contribute to that with Sterolife,”​ Dr Daels said. “Initially, this will involve margarines, spreads and baking products such as biscuits, muffins and cereal bars. We will test how our fat behaves in these specific products and, based on this knowledge, we will fine-tune the production process. There are still different obstacles to overcome but we believe that Sterolife will become a game changer in the food industry and in the search for healthy alternatives to existing high-fat products.”

Website Link (Article by Oliver Morrison)


Published by RenSun Lee

Kia ora! Sustainability is at the core of my soul ever since I was a kid. I always strive to finish the food on my plate and live as a minimalist. I love to cut down on waste in order to live sustainably and harmoniously with our planet. This brings me to my passion as a Food Scientist to integrate new technologies into innovative and creative solutions to meet customer demands and market trends and to optimize products and processes for quality, savings and sustainability. To these goals, I have published a Journal on my work on sustainable packaging and patented a new Antimicrobial wash. Nothing is more satisfying than working hard and smart at the workplace and playing hard outside of working hours. I enjoy rejuvenating myself through spending quality time with my two adorable kids and my awesome soul mate and getting close to nature when possible, be it gardening, tramping or going to the beach. I also love to learn about our magnificent universe and how sustainability is working in the grand scheme of things. I strongly believe that Work, Life & Balance is the key to a healthy state of mind, both physically and mentally. I look forward to making a positive difference wherever and whenever I can. Through this Blog, I hope to catalog recent Food Trends and Food Technologies that I come across so that anyone who is interested can have access to it (articles and resources). Please use these resources at your discretion. On top of that, I would also like to share related news and technologies of the future that would help mankind advance towards a Type 1 Civilization. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to share and contribute to the “Resources“. I would like to thank you in advance for dropping by. I sincerely hope that you can benefit from the recent Food Trends and Food Technologies I catalogued. Kind regards | Ngā mihi RenSun Lee

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