Vegetable wax flakes
The researchers found vegetable waxes may be used to reduce saturated fat.

MINNEAPOLIS — Cargill scientists showed how starches, vegetable waxes and emulsions may be used to reduce saturated fat by up to 40% in shortenings during the annual meeting of the American Oil Chemists’ Society held May 1-4 in Salt Lake City.

The scientists gained an understanding of how fat behaves at a molecular level and analyzed its structure at each stage of the production process, from mixing to the end of a product’s shelf life. They then created bakery models to predict the specific application performance of each reduced saturated fat alternative.

Serpil Metin, Cargill
Serpil Metin, Ph.D., principal scientist for Cargill

“This research demonstrates a significant leap forward in our understanding of the structure and function of fats throughout the bakery process,” said Serpil Metin, Ph.D., principal scientist for Minneapolis-based Cargill. “With that knowledge, we are working to unlock new low-fat and reduced saturated fat solutions that meet the needs of bakeries and help address the health concerns of consumers.”

The Cargill scientists found three promising approaches to lower saturated fat levels: a starch/oil blend, vegetable waxes and monoglycerides, and emulsions.

In the starch/oil blend method, the scientists replaced some of the saturated fat with a blend of canola oil and starch. They used particle stabilization technology combined with fat crystal optimization to create a structured fat system that reduced saturated fat levels by 40% without sacrificing key performance characteristics.

The second method focused on controlling how fat solidifies. As fat cools, it forms crystals. The researchers found that combining vegetable waxes and monoglycerides with canola oil and palm oil allowed the researchers to influence the size, shape and speed at which crystals form. The fat system lowered saturated fat levels while maintaining critical fat structures.

The third method used emulsions to dilute saturated fat levels. While water and fat naturally separate, the researchers devised a method of encasing water droplets in shells made of monoglycerides and hard fats.