Fat Replacers in Food

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Fat Replacers in Food

Topic Overview

Fat replacers are non-fat substances that act like fat in a food. An ideal fat replacer would be a substance that has no health risks and tastes and looks like natural fat but has fewer calories. There is no one substance that is an ideal fat replacer. So several kinds are often used in one food.

Fat replacers are categorized into three basic types:

  • Carbohydrate-based. These are made from starchy foods, such as corn, cereals, and grains. Most fat replacers today are made from carbohydrate.
  • Protein-based. These are made by modifying protein, using egg white or whey from milk.
  • Fat-based. These are made by replacing triglycerides in vegetable oils.

Fat replacers may not be listed by their brand names on the ingredient label, which makes it hard for people to identify them in the foods they buy.

If you are interested in using fat replacers, consider the following:

  • Current research shows that carbohydrate- and protein-based fat replacers don't hurt health.
  • A non-caloric fat replacer, olestra, interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble substances, including the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K) and carotenoids. Carotenoids are substances that give plants their colour, and they are antioxidants in your body. Examples include carotenes and lycopene (found in tomatoes). Side effects of olestra include cramping, bloating, and loose stools.
  • Foods that contain fat replacers may have fewer calories compared to foods that contain fat. But some people may tend to eat more of the food that contains a replacer, which makes up for the reduction in calories.

More research is needed on fat replacers. If you want to include fat replacers in your diet, talk with a registered dietitian.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Ruth Schneider, MPH, RD - Diet and Nutrition
Specialist Medical Reviewer Adam Husney, MD, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Last Revised May 26, 2010

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.