The market for fat-replacers continues to grow as consumers seek out 'low-fat' foods. According to the Food Marketing Institute, 46 per cent of consumers say that fat is their main nutritional concern.
The additive, called C-Trim, contains between 2.5 and 3.5 calories per gram, compared to four per gram for carbohydrates like starch, and nine calories per gram for fat. The beta-glucan content is also reported to be between five to ten times that of rolled oats, oat flour, and oatmeal.
Beta-glucan is said to play a role in blood sugar control, and could lower LDL-(bad) cholesterol , which has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) by a variety of experimental, genetic and epidemiological studies.
"C-Trim fights the calorie load because of the texture it induces, which allows the food manufacturer to considerably decrease carbs or fats - or both," said ARS scientitist and C-Trim creator George Inglett in the March issue of the ARS magazine, Agricultural Research.
The additive, formulated as a white, odorless, and virtually tasteless powder "can be added to all classes of food products, including yogurt, smoothies, and baked goods," said Inglett.
The scientists, based at the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, in Peoria, Illinois, have already used C-Trim in a range of food products, including cookies, peanut butter and yoghurt.
For the cookies, ARS food technologist Kathleen Warner, found that between five and ten per cent C-Trim produced the best results. At higher concentrations, particularly around 30 per cent, the cookies were difficult to chew due to hardness.
In peanut butter spreads, a satisfactory product can be formulated with as much as 15 per cent C-Trim, producing a product with significant calorific savings.
The additive has also been used in yogurt, where the beta-glucan was not found to interfere with the fermentation process by the cultures.
The food technologist responsible for this area of research, Mutki Sigh, said: "We'll look at how active these cultures are. We'll also do taste tests."
A patent application (11/020,349) has been made and the additive has been licensed to Illinois-based Futureceuticals.