What Are Fat Replacement Products?
You’re probably more familiar with fat replacement products than you think. Any time you drink low-fat milk (1%, 2%, etc.) you are consuming a fat replacement product of some kind. In low-fat milk, fat replacement products are inserted to take the place of the fat that is removed. Without something to replace the fat that is taken out, the milk would have a strange consistency, mouth-feel, and taste.
Fat replacement products, also known as fat replacers, can take the place of carbohydrates, proteins, or fat based, not just fat. The only requirement is that they provide fewer than 9 calories per gram–the amount of calories that dietary fat provides.
Fat replacement products work by replacing some or all of the functions of fat in a food product without providing the same “energy” that fat would provide. Remember that a calorie is a measure of a food’s energy potential. The idea behind using a fat replacement product is to allow a food to taste, look, smell, and feel the same as it would without the highly caloric fat.
Fat Replacement Product Regulations
For something to be legally declared a “fat replacer,” it has to fulfill a few requirements.
1. Fat replacers should contribute little or no caloric energy to the food product it is added to.
2. Fat replacers must be non-toxic, easily digestible, and able to be excreted by the human body.
3. Fat replacers must not rob the body of precious fat soluble vitamins, as some fat replacement products tend to do.
Fat Replacement Product Dangers
The body needs to absorb vitamins, and many vitamins are fat-soluble. Basically, this means that they require fat to be absorbed by the human body. If you are using lots of fat replacement products, your body may not be able to absorb as many vitamins. People who eat lots of food products that contain high levels of fat replacement products tend to be vitamin-deficient. That’s why it is not a good idea to eat a large number of foods that are 0% fat. Consider drinking whole milk one or two days a week instead of skim milk seven days a week, for instance.
Fat Replacement Flavor
All fat replacers should contribute some from of flavor or taste to a food product. This isn’t a legal requirement, but one imposed by food producers. Think about it this way–you could add styrofoam to a food and take away much of its fat content, but the food wouldn’t taste very good. Fat replacement products should still be palatable.
Fat Replacement Stability
When food producers use the word “stable,” they are referring an ingredient’s ability to maintain a constant temperature and moisture level. Many failed fat replacement products didn’t work because they weren’t stable and could impact the appearance, texture, or taste of a food after even a brief period of storage. The word “stable” when used to describe fat replacement products also refers to their ability to withstand high or low temperatures for foods that are meant to be baked, microwaved, frozen, or refrigerated.