Kao Corp. and Archer Daniels Midland Co. (ADM) have signed a letter of intent to form a 50/50 joint venture for the manufacturing, marketing and sales of DAG oil as an ingredient for the food industry.
Fats are not just a food lubricant. They are a source of essential nutrition and flavor.”—from the 10 Commandments of Healthy Edible Oil Consumption guide from Spectrum Organic Products Inc., Petaluma, Calif.

New wrinkles in the oils industry have surfaced, especially in the category of healthful oils. As a dark cloud casts its shadow over trans fats, still awaiting word from the FDA regarding mandatory labeling on food packages, other oils have emerged with hallowed publicity. Olive oil, hemp oil, rice bran oil, amaranth oil and other fats have been in the headlines as healthful oils.

Recent news in the oils industry has included the introduction of Kao's Healthy Cooking Oils, a new non-GMO-based soybean oil, health-promoting chocolates, and designer milk fats for infant formulas.

Healthy Cooking Oils

In March, Japan-based Kao Corp. announced the launch of Healthy Econa Cooking Oil for Lower Cholesterol. This is the second in Kao's series of Healthy Econa Cooking Oil products. The product slows the increase of blood triglycerides to help prevent the accumulation of body fat and also helps lower blood cholesterol levels.

If used continually, the Econa cooking oil will lower cholesterol levels in the bloodstream, according to the company website (www.kao.co.jp). The oil is the second cooking oil product to gain approval for marketing as a Food for Specified Health Use (FOSHU) by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare in Japan. Healthy Econa Cooking Oil was originally launched in February 1999.

The main ingredient in Econa Cooking Oil for Lower Cholesterol is diacylglycerol (DAG). The vegetable sterol acts to prevent cholesterol from being completely absorbed in the body after a meal, resulting in lower blood cholesterol, especially levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol.

One month of use by those with high cholesterol levels can benefit from an average cholesterol reduction of 7.1%, according to company information.

The cooking oil is a light tasting oil made from soy and rapeseed (canola). The oil can be used in the same applications as conventional edible oils and is well suited for deep-frying and in salad dressings. Kao has also launched a series of Healthy Econa Dressings with the healthy oils.

DAG slows increases of blood triglycerides, contributing to the slowing of fat formation in the body. Research conducted by the U.S.-based Chicago Center for Clinical Research (CCCR) has shown that DAG was found more effective in the reduction of obesity when compared with triacylglycerol (TAG), the primary component of general cooking oils. The CCCR announced the results at two meetings last fall—the Japan Society for the Study of Obesity in Nagoya, Japan, and the North American Association for the Study of Obesity (NAASO).

DAG is digested and absorbed in the small intestine and is consumed as energy after being partly metabolized in the liver without resynthesizing into a neutral fat like conventional oil. As a result, it curbs the level of neutral fat in the blood that usually increases after eating. With long-term use, the increase of body fat can be prevented, especially fat deposits in internal organs.

In tests comparing TAG diets to DAG diets, overweight Americans who had meals containing DAG for an extended period showed a more marked reduction in body weight and total fat than those who had meals containing TAG.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration accepted Kao's determination of DAG as GRAS last December.

In February of this year, Kao Corporation and Archer Daniels Midland Co. signed a letter of intent to form a 50/50 joint venture for the manufacturing, marketing and sales of DAG oil as an ingredient for the food industry. ADM plans to construct a pilot plant to produce DAG oil at its Decatur, Ill., facility, which would be operational by November 2001.

Kao's research in the area of fatty chemicals and edible oils includes fatty products derived from natural fats, including beef tallow, coconut oils and palm oils.

(above) New oil varieties are being developed through conventional plant breeding techniques.

Soyola Oil

Derived from a new soybean variety, Soyola oil does not need hydrogenation for cooking uses. Hydrogenation produces most of the dietary trans fats now recognized as unhealthy for the heart. Most soybean oil is currently hydrogenated to increase stability and broaden its food applications (e.g., for baking and margarine).

Soyola is a result of conventional plant breeding methods. It is the first release under the Better Bean Initiative (BBI) launched in 1998 by the United Soybean Board to develop products using classical selection and breeding techniques.

The non-transgenically modified soybean, Soyola yields oil that does not need hydrogenation to improve its usefulness for cooking and extended shelf life. Soyola is the first non-GMO soybean developed for the southern U.S. with reduced linolenic acid content. This polyunsaturated fatty acid degrades easily and causes rancid flavors in soybean oil, especially after extended heating.

The oil is well suited for frying and salad oil applications. It has half the linolenic acid found in commercial varieties, according to developer Joseph W. Burton at the Agricultural Research Service's Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Unit in Raleigh, N.C.

Future BBI initiatives include breeding non-GMO soybeans with reduced levels of both linolenic and palmitic acid (saturated fat 16:0) and increased levels of heart-healthy oleic acid, found at high levels in olive and canola oils.

To date, the palmitic acid content has been reduced to about 4%, from the standard 10 to 12%, says Burton.

Seeds of the new soybean variety currently are being offered to growers, reports Burton. Other potential uses include soymilk creamers, because of the low saturated fats and increased stability, he adds.

For details on Soyola oil, contact Joseph W. Burton, phone: 919-515-2734; fax: 919-856-4598; e-mail: jburton@cropserv1.cropsci.ncsu.edu.

Designing Human Milk Fats

Although breast milk is the best choice to feed growing infants, infant formula is the next best option for those who cannot or choose not to breastfeed. Manufacturers strive to create infant formulas as close as possible to mother's milk.

Human milk contains over 200 constituents—mainly proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates with nucleotides, lipase, lactose, vitamins, minerals and fluids. While human milk fat comprises 2 to 3.3% of the volume of human milk, it provides half of the total calories of human milk.

Human milk fat has a unique chemical structure that is tailored to infants' needs. Suppliers of infant formulas generally use a blend of vegetable oils to simulate the fat content of human milk, however, the chemical structure differs.

Through enzyme modification with lipases and interesterification of fats and oils, scientists are able to create “designer oils,” tailor-made compounds to suit specific applications. In the case of infant formulas, scientists are able to mimic the structure of human milk fat by interesterifying or internally rearranging fatty acids in triglycerides.

“While scientists have copied the fatty acids of milk fat quite accurately, they have not been successful in arranging them the way nature does—until recently,” says Gerald McNeill, Ph.D., R&D director for Loders Croklaan, Channahon, Ill. “This is important for infant nutrition; nature has literally designed human milk fat.”

Loders Croklaan offers Betapole, a vegetable fat blend that closely mimics the physical and chemical structure of human milk fat, produced through enzymatic interesterification.

Most fats occur in the form of triglyercides—three fatty acids attached to a glycerol backbone. In vegetable fats, palmitic acid (a 16-carbon saturated fatty acid or C16:0) is mostly on the one and three positions (outer), and they are released during digestion as the free acid, he explains.

“By rearranging the triglyceride—taking palmitic acid out of the outer positions and putting it in the middle two position—and adding unsaturated fats in the outer one and three position, we can more closely mimic the structure of human milk fat,” reports McNeill.

With palmitic acid in the middle of the triglyceride molecule, it is not released as a free fatty acid during digestion—a benefit. Free palmitic acid reacts with calcium to form a very insoluble, waxy material that is poorly absorbed, notes McNeill.

“Results indicate that fat and calcium absorption is enhanced with the 'designer fat' compared to current infant formulas,” says McNeill. “In other studies, there was an improvement in bone density with the designer fat compared to regular infant formula fat. In comparisons of infants at the same age, bone density was higher in infants consuming the designer fat formula.”

The human milk designer fat has been used in Europe for the past several years in pre-term infant formula. At the end of last year, formulas for full-term infants contained the ingredient. In the U.S., manufacturers are seeking GRAS approval for infant use.

CLA: The 'Good' Trans Fat

Much has been written recently touting the benefits of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Milk fat is the richest source of CLA, an 18-carbon polyunsaturated omega 6 fatty acid. Although this is a trans fat, this “good” trans fat can fight cancer and combat atherosclerosis. In fact, the FDA is considering the exemption of CLA from the proposed new rule requiring food manufacturers to label trans fats in foods.

Now there is good news for chocolate lovers regarding milk chocolate and CLA. In a recent study on chocolate at Hershey Foods Corp., researchers found tiny amounts of CLA in chocolate, especially in milk chocolate. However, recent studies have shown that one may need to consume at least three grams of CLA per day to receive any benefits, which would be over 10 pounds of milk chocolate each day!

In another study at the Nestlé Research Center, scientists formulated a healthier version of Nestlé's dark chocolate. Calcium carbonate replaced sucrose equal to 2.5% of the candy's weight. Calcium carbonate comprises chalk, limestone and marble.

The subjects in the study excreted about twice as much fat when they ate the calcium-fortified chocolate compared to when they ingested regular dark chocolate. Furthermore, the subjects' LDL cholesterol fell by 15% during the period when they ate the calcium-fortified chocolate.

The results are not surprising considering that combining calcium and fats produces soap. In the study, these ingredients were combined in the stomach to form a soap that was excreted.