www.foodfacts.com wants to make people more aware of what controversial food additives are being put into their foods. Today foodfacts.com looks into the controversial food additive Interesterified Fat. What is interesterified fat? Just as food manufacturers have started to remove them from their products, restaurants have been eliminating them from their menus, and government entities have begun to ban them, transfats have been replaced by a new kind of fat with a lengthy and unpronounceable name—INTERESTERIFIED FATS. While these fats may be interesting, the root word from which their name is derives is not INTEREST, but ESTER . Esters are organic compounds formed from an organic acid and an alcohol.
Interesterification is one of three main fat modification techniques. The other two techniques are fractionation and hydrogenation, which is the process used to produce transfats.
Interesterification is the process of rearranging the fatty acids in triglyceride molecules. Triglycerides form the basic structure of most fats and oils. They are composed of glycerol and three chains of fatty acids. Interesterified fats (IFs) are used in shortening for baked goods, fat for frying, in butter substitutes, such as soft margarine. The interesterification process maintains solid fat content at ambient temperatures while lowering the melting point of the fat.
Interestified Fat in Food
While consumers are being regularly informed by the food manufactures and restaurants that transfats are being removed from their menus, very little is being said about the fats that are replacing transfats. The class of interesterified fats provides one of the least expensive options for fats used in baking and frying. There are two types of interestification–one that uses chemical catalysts —usually metals or salts, and another that uses enzymic catalysts. Use of chemical catalysts is less expensive than use of enzymic catalysts, but the chemical catalysts require manufacturing steps to purify and deodorize the finished product.
Why should the consumer care about how fats are made? Interestingly, it appears that changing or re-arranging the molecules of fats or a combination of fats during the interesterification process may affect how the fats are metabolized in the human body. A recent joint study conducted in Malaysia and at Brandeis University indicated that not only did IFs depress beneficial HDL cholesterol, it appeared to raise blood glucose levels and decrease insulin production. Elevation of blood glucose and suppression of insulin production are precursors to diabetes. In addition, further elevation of blood glucose and reduction in insulin levels could be dangerous to those who are already have diabetes. Further studies are needed, but this study has raised real concerns about the use of IFs to replace transfats, especially if they are used widely and without the knowledge of consumers.