A zero-calorie natural fat replacement gel made from insoluble corn bran fiber promises to replace between 25 and 50 percent of the fats typically used in food preparation.
Such a claim will certainly interest food makers who feel pressurized to reduce the fat content of products but are concerned that consumers will steer clear of flavor-lite food.
"Taste is foremost, and the escalating numbers of obesity cases reflect an unwillingness to sacrifice taste," said Dr Triveni Shukla, vice-president of technology for FiberGel Technologies.
"Therefore, simplest and best approach is not to diet, but to just prepare our foods a little differently. For our part, we can help to make foods healthier without the dietary stigma that typicallydooms weight loss efforts.
FiberGel Technologies produces Z-Trim, a zero-calorie natural fat replacement gel invented by the USDA's Agricultural Research Service. The company claims that the creamy white gel, which can replace up to half the fats typically used in food preparation, does not alter flavor.
FiberGel says that the product can be used in baked goods, dairy products, meat products, beverage products, confections and other highfat foods.
Food makers are increasingly finding that cutting the fat content of foods can be a good selling point. With fatty foods been blamed for contributing to the rise in obesity, and growing awareness of the dangers of trans fats resulting in a clear trend towards healthier products, the market for fat reduced food products is now wide open.
This market is also proving lucrative. US sales of products labeled "no trans fat" increased 12 percent to $6.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended Oct. 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period, according to New York-based AC-Nielsen.
What's more, the societal impact of an escalating obesity epidemic and the need to remove unnecessary fat and calories from food is putting increasing pressure on the industry to be more nutritionally responsive. This was confirmed in a recent report published in the September/October issue of the American Journal of Health Promotion.
The article reflected that the typical cost of obesity at a firm of 1,000 employees could soon exceed $285,000 per year. The typical combined annual cost of being obese for an individual, includingmedical expenses and absenteeism, is as high $2,500, according to the study.
The increasing number of such studies concerning the impacts of obesity has led to dramatic calls for more intervention and regulation. If food companies do not act, then government could eventually deicide to come down heavily on high-fat foods.
"Obesity is a public health issue that's growing impact on the GNP is beginning to get noticed," said Shukla. "The fact that the problem is still expanding despite volumes of media coverage reflects just how resistant Americans have become to fad diets and to accepting changes in the tastes of foods they love to eat."