Modified protein mimics taste and texture of fat

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October 2014

Proteins may soon replace fat in food products without compromising taste, thanks to the work of UK scientists. The team, led by Steve Euston, senior lecturer in the school of life sciences at Herriot-Watt University in Scotland, found a modified protein easily breaks down into micro-particles, thereby mimicking the behavior of fats in food manufacture. Although previous protein-for-fat substitution efforts have succeeded in yogurt products, they have had limited success in applications such as cheeses and cakes. The new effort focuses on using proteins to replace eggs, which would open the door for use in bakery items, creating low-fat options in a food group that is typically high in fat.

Moving forward, the researchers will develop a computer model that will allow manufacturers to determine the optimum levels for replacing fat with protein in various food products, according to a statement from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, which funded the study. The research on the fat-mimicking protein will be taken forward by project partner Nandi Proteins, who will help incorporate the modified proteins into products that could reach the shelves within two years. Nandi Proteins is based in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.

In another study, led by University of Massachusetts food scientist David Julian McClements, researchers found microparticulated whey protein could help create reduced-calorie emulsion-based foods, such as sauces and dressing. The team showed the protein microparticles, in combination with polysaccharides, can be used to create “reduced calorie food emulsions with an appearance and consistency similar to those of commercial full fat products,” according to a report in Food Navigator. View the full study, which was published in Food Research International in August 2014.