Engineering the healthy doughnut as colloids kick out the fats

British scientists have patented nano-technology techniques to help consumers satisfy their food cravings, while still following a healthy diet, low in fats, salt and sugar. 

The idea is to wholly or partially replace fat particles with calorie-free substances such as water, air or gels, while retaining the indulgent sensory properties.

One of the first products that could result from the programme is a chocolate bar that tastes exactly like the full calorie experience while actually being low in sugar and fat.

In the case of the chocolate bar, the team have discovered techniques that can make the product up to 60 per cent water by bonding the water particles with crystals of cocoa butter. However, the water droplets are so small that the product has all the tastes and characteristics of normal chocolate including melting at 32-34°C.

Another similar technique can reduce salt content in foods by up to 80 per cent, water is hidden inside oil droplets so only the outer oil part of the droplets contains any salt while the main inner water content remains salt free – and the perceived taste remains unchanged. This technology is called WOW (water-in-oil-in-water) emulsions which reduce fat content by filling microscopic fat droplets with water.

The Birmingham team has also been working on other ways to curb obesity including ways to make people feel full sooner and for longer, including a liquid that can change into a 3D gel when it hits the acid content of the stomach.

The gelling process can be adjusted to react over different time scales to give the desired effect, anything from minutes up to half an hour.

The latest issue of E&T (issue 3, cover dates 20 February – 5 March 2010) has an extended feature on this topic. Read the Engineering healthy foods article here.

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