Long-chain Omega-3s in Functional Foods
The short-chain omega-3 ALA from flaxseed, walnut, canola and soybean oil has its own unique health benefits. However, the conversion process of ALA to EPA and DHA is inefficient at less than 1%, claimed one omega-3 supplier at Prepared Foods’ R&D Applications Seminar-East in 2009. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oil are 100% bioavailable, with direct absorption into the blood.

“Research indicates EPA reduces inflammation,” explained Martin Dansbury, technical sales manager, Eastern U.S. and Europe, for OmegaPure, “reduces occurrence of secondary heart attacks, supports immune function, promotes blood flow and allows for nutrient transport through cellular membranes. DHA promotes cell turnover, supports healthy development of blood cells and vessels, protects cells and is necessary for brain and eye development,” he added, during a speech titled, “Long Chain Omega-3s in Functional Foods.”

Dansbury shared results of an industry survey, where 74% of consumers said they were aware omegas reduce risk of heart disease, while animal fats and saturated fats increase risk. Due to the higher cost, higher income consumers are more likely to purchase omega-3 products. The 65+ population are more willing to purchase omega-3-fortified products, for the associated health benefits, while the 18-24 demographic is most likely to purchase functional foods, in general. 

Consumers now expect to find omega-3s in infant food and formula, nutrition or energy bars and beverages, orange juice and cereal. Considerations when handling omega-3 ingredients include shipping, storage, production and final product. Suppliers’ technical teams are available to assist with formulation. 

Refrigeration is acceptable for short-term omega-3 storage, but freezing is recommended for long-term storage. To use, gradually thaw frozen oil in a cooler, directly prior to use. Once thawed and opened, immediate use is recommended. While adding omega-3 to a formulation, it is advisable to add the oil as close to the end of the process as possible. The addition of chelators helps retard oxidation. Encapsulation of vitamins or mineral premixes is suggested, to prevent ingredient interaction.

Thousands of studies on EPA and DHA support the claims that can be made on foods for brain, eye and heart health. A qualified health claim stating: “Supportive, but not conclusive, research shows that consumption of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. One serving of [name of food] provides [X] grams of EPA and DHA omega-3 fatty acids. [See nutrition information for total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol content.]”

Products can also make “excellent source” nutrient content claims, if containing 32mg EPA and DHA per serving. However, this is under review by the FDA, and a final ruling is expected shortly. Regardless of the final decision, omega-3 nutrient content claims will be valid for use until at least January 1, 2012. Structure-function claim examples being used include “omega-3s support cardiovascular health;” “support healthy brain function;” “support healthy brain and eye development;” “support a healthy immune system;” and “are beneficial for health maintenance.”
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

“Long-chain Omega-3s in Functional Foods,” Martin Dansbury, technical sales manager, Eastern U.S. and Europe, OmegaPure, 215-579-1396, www.omegapure.com, mdansbury@omegapure.com

A New Paradigm of Saturated Fats
During the 1960s-1980s, it was believed high blood cholesterol increased the risk of heart disease. The thinking was that bad cholesterol (LDL) was strongly linked to heart disease, and saturated fat intake increases LDL; therefore, they believed it increased the risk of heart disease. Polyunsaturates and monounsaturates decrease LDL in blood, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. Gerald McNeill, director of R&D and marketing for Loders Croklaan, provided some background on the current knowledge of the health effects of saturated fat in the diet during his presentation titled, “A New Paradigm of Saturated Fats,” at Prepared Foods’ R&D Seminar--Chicago.

The Framingham Heart Study, which commenced in 1948, measured the connection between lifestyle and heart disease over two generations. Ten thousand participants over two generations had a full blood analysis every two years. Data from 35 years showed a relationship exists between risk of heart disease and many other factors, including smoking, age, gender, blood pressure and blood lipids.

From the 1980s to the 1990s, a “good” component of blood cholesterol (HDL) was found to reduce risk of heart disease. Also discovered was the ratio of LDL to HDL is a strong indicator of risk for heart disease. Saturated fat consumption increases LDL. But, trans fat not only increases LDL, it reduces HDL. So, trans fats are worse than saturated fats for risk of heart disease.

The Framingham Heart Study showed that factors other than total or LDL cholesterol must be considered, when evaluating risk of heart disease. In fact, low levels of HDL are as much a risk factor as high levels of LDL. “But, the best simple test for predicting risk is the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL,” notes McNeill. “Saturated fats neither increase nor decrease the total cholesterol:HDL ratio and, therefore, have little or no effect on heart disease,” he states.

Dietary habits for good coronary health include omega-3 fatty acids from seafood, no trans fat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, unsaturated fats, legumes, nuts, low saturated fats, smaller portion sizes and drinking sweetened drinks rarely. The Nurses Health Study, which was an observational study with 120,000 participants over 20 years, measured the composition of individual diets and correlated heart disease with different fats in the diet. It was found that increasing saturated fat consumption had no effect on relative risk of heart disease, but increasing trans fat consumption does. And, increasing amounts of poly and monounsaturated fats decreases risk.

New scientific data from multiple sources shows saturated fat does not increase risk of heart disease in women and has little effect on men. Earlier studies using just total cholesterol, while ignoring saturated fat’s HDL-raising effect, exaggerated the negative effects of saturated fat. Research now indicates that trans fat is the only fat that increases risk of heart disease.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee advised decreasing saturated fat intake from 12% to less than 7% of calories would reduce LDL cholesterol by about 8-10% and would be expected to reduce risk of heart disease by the same. The HDL-raising effect of saturates was not discussed, but would have been expected to lower the risk of heart disease. Epidemiological studies that would have shown little effect of saturates on the risk of heart disease were not discussed, but 11 epidemiological studies were used to support the conclusions on trans fats.

Recent controlled studies and epidemiological studies that also measure trans fat show little effect from saturates on heart disease. Earlier studies that did not measure trans fat erroneously ascribe negative effects of “hidden” trans fats to saturated fats. Advisory bodies do not take the HDL-raising effect or epidemiological studies of saturates into account. Inaccurate representation of saturated fat could lead to dietary recommendations with unforeseen consequences.
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

“A New Paradigm of Saturated Fats,” Gerald McNeill, director of R&D and marketing, Loders Croklaan, 815-730-5333, Gerald.mcneill@croklaan.com, www.croklaan.com  

Fats and Oils Toolbox
Natural vegetable oils have certain properties in common that distinguish them from animal fats and fish oils. Unsaturated double bonds occur in a cis isomer configuration, and they contain no cholesterol. Each oil source produces a unique fatty acid combination. This gives each oil a fingerprint and unique properties. Typically, fats are solid at room temperature, and oils are liquid at room temperature.

“About 15 different fatty acids can be found in vegetable fats and oils, all differing in level of saturation and chain length,” discussed AarhusKarlshamn USA Inc., in  the presentation titled, “Your Fats and Oils Toolbox: Understanding What’s Available.” For comparison, oils from fish have been found to contain as many as 50 different fatty acids. The chemical properties that affect oils’ physical properties include the number of carbons (length); the arrangement of the fatty acids on the glycerol base; and the number and location of double bonds. Also, the type of double bond, cis or trans, and the number of different triglycerides present affect physical properties of the fat. The more complex the mixture, the broader the melting range.

Types of vegetable oils range from liquid or soft, which are highly unsaturated, and include soybean, sunflower, rapeseed/canola, groundnut, cottonseed, corn, olive, safflower, sesame and flax. Lauric oils, such as palm kernel and coconut oils, are highly saturated, while palm oils, including olein and stearin, are 50:50. Other exotic oils include kokum, shea, illipe, sal and cocoa butter. 

Considerations for use of oil in a food include cost, availability, stability and shelflife, and, of course, functionality. Functionality is determined by how well the oil or fat performs under processing, with expatiations of how the finished product should turn out. Physical characteristics, such as melt point, solid fat content, melting character and crystallization, help the developer in choosing what functional aspects are important in his or her project.

To modify oils’ physical characteristics (and thereby functionality), fractionation, hydrogenation and interesterification can be used. Well-processed oils are odorless, tasteless, colorless and free of impurities, and possess physical properties suited to the application.

Fractionation changes the physical characteristics by taking advantage of the different melt points of the triglycerides present in the source oil. The oil is separated into multiple fractions that exhibit significantly different physical characteristics, an olein and a stearin. The stearin portion is harder and has a higher melt point than the olein portion. The fatty acid composition of the two fractions will be different from each other and the mother oil. Three common methods of fractionation are physical, solvent and winterization. Differing qualities can result from different methods, but product labeling in the U.S. does not require declaration of fractionation.

Hydrogenation is a chemical reaction with hydrogen gas in which double bonds are saturated. This raises the melting point and converts liquid oils to more solid fats. The percentage of solids at different temperatures is increased, and the iodine value is lowered, increasing the oxidative stability of the oil. 

Interesterification is a process for changing the order of the arrangement of the fatty acids on a glycerin molecule, thus modifying the fat properties by altering its chemical structure. The oil source can be singular or a combination. There are two common methods, chemical or enzymatic. Heat and a catalyst are necessary to bring about the reaction, and this process is used to give shortenings a wider plasticity range and better consistency. It also alters the solid content of a fat. U.S. labeling does not require declaration of interesterification. There are also combination techniques in the toolbox, and AAK suggests manufacturers make good use of oil suppliers, when developing new products or reformulating for the purpose of removing trans fats from products.
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

“Your Fats and Oils Toolbox: Understanding What’s Available,” Edmund Wilson AarhusKarlshamn USA Inc., 973-3441-1300, ed.wilson@aak.com

Here and Now: Today’s Soybean Oil
The United Soybean Board, with 68 farmer-directors appointed by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, represents 650,000 + soybean farmers in the U.S. In a seminar titled, “The Here and Now: Soybean Oil Solutions for Today,” Don Banks, president of edible oil technology and consultant for the United Soybean Board, presented information on QUALISOY’s (a soybean industry collaborative) efforts to produce healthier soybeans and soy oils with increased performance and functionality, and reduced environmental impact, improving global competitiveness of the U.S. soybean industry.

New soybean oils with modified fatty acid compositions are becoming available. Low-linolenic soybean oil is beneficial for flavor stability and performance. Mid-oleic soy oil imparts good flavor stability and enhanced oxidative stability. High-oleic soy oil provides exceptional oxidative stability and performance. Relatively low in saturates, soybean oil is heart-healthy, and efforts are underway for a soybean oil with even lower saturated fat. Increased omega-3 soybean oils will improve the health and nutrition profile even more. Also, high-stearic soy oil is coming soon for margarine and bakery shortening.

Banks explained that regular soybean oil contains approximately 7-8% linolenic acid (C:18-3). The content is controlled by three genes and can be down-regulated by selectively breeding soybeans with reduced gene expression. It is found that a higher content of linolenate increases the fishy aroma in the oil. Thus, low-linolenic soybean oil has application as a trans-free alternative for lightly hydrogenated oil, when used in foodservice for frying, sautéing and stir-frying. It is a light-to-medium-duty, commercial frying oil, but usage can be extended by oil management.

Mid-oleic soybean oil also contains the low-linolenic trait, so along with enhanced oxidative stability, it provides improved flavor stability. The fatty acid composition is approximately 55-70% oleic and less than 3% linolenic. Regular soybeans contain ~23% oleic (C:18-1). Oils available today include those with 65% oleic and higher. Mid-oleic soy oil is a trans-free alternative for traditional, partially hydrogenated oils, providing flavor stability and heat-stress tolerance (both in continuous frying and baking applications). It can also be used for extended-duty spray oils.

High-stearic soybean oils are made from a natural base stock containing 20% stearic acid. Through formulating and blending, a high-stearic soybean oil can be used to make shortening and solid fats, without hydrogenation. Stearic acid classification and possible exclusion from saturated fat labeling is now under review, because of the metabolic pathway for its desaturation to oleic acid, and its neutral effect on HDL and LDL cholesterol.

With the push to reduce and remove trans fat and saturated fat, product changes occur with flavor, texture, appearance and shelf-life. Manufacturers must be prepared to adjust processing, product preparation, frying, baking profiles or mixing. Shelflives may need adjustment, but outside support is available through suppliers, processing specialists and others. Trans fat solutions can be found by switching altogether to non-hydrogenated oils or blending fully-hydrogenated and non-hydrogenated oils. Banks states, “Blending oils allows for many options. Interesterification and plant breeding are bringing about oils with modified fatty acid compositions. When switching oils, considerations on functionality and application must be made. Cost, supply, nutrition and technical support are other considerations.”

The objectives of soy oil modification are to limit linolenic for flavor stability; increase oleic acid for increased oxidative stability; and promote heart health with both heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
--Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

“The Here and Now: Soybean Oil Solutions for Today,” Don Banks, president of edible oil technology, United Soybean Board, 206-270-4522, info@qualisoy.com, www.unitedsoybean.org

Challenges in Fortifying Foods with Omega-3 Oils
Why use oils? The cost of encapsulation is expensive, adding two or three times to the cost of omega-3 oil. Brian Connolly, technical applications manager for Denomega Nutritional Oils, provided possible solutions to these challenges in his presentation, “Overcoming Challenges of Fortifying Foods and Beverages with Omega-3 Oils,” at a recent Prepared Foods’ R&D Seminar--Chicago.

Encapsulated fish oils have a lower concentration of omega-3 than straight fish oil, requiring more of the encapsulated form. Encapsulated oils contain many ingredients and some allergens that need to appear on the ingredient statement. Highly refined fish oils do not have to be declared as allergens in the U.S. and have few ingredients needing to be declared on the label.

Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in the unoxidized form are both odor- and flavor-free, similar to a vegetable oil. However, once oxidation begins, fishy taste and odor problems develop. Antioxidants break the chain of lipid oxidation by reacting with free radicals to form non-radical products. Antioxidants can also inhibit rancidity and formation of volatile taste and odor products. Factors influencing lipid oxidation include storage conditions, packaging, ingredient interactions, light exposure and processing conditions. A 10°C increase in temperature can increase reaction rates by two to three times. This has implications, depending where a product is to be marketed and how it is stored. Stability studies at different temperatures are necessary.

The ability of product packaging to prevent oxygen transfer and to block light impacts shelflife. Oxygen reacts with free radicals to form peroxides, while light can interact with ingredients to initiate oxidation. Ultraviolet light can break down peroxides, resulting in rancidity. Using a modified atmosphere, like nitrogen or carbon dioxide, can extend the shelflife of a product.

Metals, like iron or copper present in foods, act to break down peroxides, resulting in rancid oils. Copper is more reactive, but iron is more prevalent. Fe++ is more reactive and much more soluble than Fe+++. “Ascorbic acid, while known to regenerate tocopherol, can also act as a reducing agent, reducing Fe+++ to Fe++, an important reaction in emulsions. Riboflavin can react with light to form reactive oxygen species that initiate oxidation, which is important in dairy and applications with added whey protein,” Connolly explained.

Surprisingly, omega-3 oils can withstand a variety of processing conditions, including baking, pasteurization and sterilization. A rule of thumb is the higher the temperature, the shorter the exposure, and, thus, retorted and extruded products are typically not good candidates for fortification with omega-3 oils. Most baked goods can be easily fortified at reasonably high levels with omega-3 oils. The relatively short shelflife and moderate processing conditions for these products makes them ideally suited for fortification.

Dairy products, like yogurt, can be fortified with relatively high levels of omega-3 (~400g per serving), but ingredient interactions and packaging are important considerations. Cheeses, such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack and mozzarella, have successfully been fortified up to 50 or 75mg per 1oz serving, but process cheese has been very tricky. Fortifying with an oil form of omega-3 is a low-cost option for many foods.
-- Summary by Elizabeth Mannie, Contributing Editor

“Overcoming Challenges of Fortifying Foods and Beverages with Omega-3 Oils,” Brian Connolly, technical applications manager, Denomega Nutritional Oils, brian.connolly@denomega.com, www.denomega.com   pf