The fats of the future

Summary

There is no doubt about it: Flanders is fond of its frietjes ( fries). But all that fat means that the deep-fried potato – and any deep-fried delectable – is a cause for concern among nutritionists and health-conscious consumers.

© UGent/Hilde Christiaens
 
© UGent/Hilde Christiaens

UGent and Vandemoortele join forces to create healthy fats for your food

There is no doubt about it: Flanders is fond of its frietjes ( fries). But all that fat means that the deep-fried potato – and any deep-fried delectable – is a cause for concern among nutritionists and health-conscious consumers.

Now Ghent University has joined forces with local cooking oil and dressings manufacturer Vandemoortele to create the new Lipid Science and Technology research centre. Researchers will develop “healthy fats”, which preserve their taste and texture and can be used in, among other products, margarines and oils.

The Laboratory of Food Technology and Engineering at Ghent University and Vandemoortele Lipids of the Vandemoortele group have been collaborating for more than a decade but have now taken the next step by establishing a joint research centre. Since the 1990s, the laboratory at Ghent has provided expertise on the microstructural qualities of food, especially the technological and nutritional functions of oils and fats.

The Ghent-based Vandemoortele group is an international player in the industry of developing, producing and selling margarines, oils and deep-fried pastry products.

“Our goal at the centre will be to eliminate harmful trans fats and to lower the level of saturated fats in food products such as margarines, oils and bakery goods,” says professor Koen Dewettinck, head of the Laboratory of Food Technology and Engineering at Ghent University. Both trans fats and saturated fats raise the cholesterol level in the bloodstream and heighten the risk of cardiovascular disease.

“More ‘healthy’ fats have been developed before, but they often lose their taste and texture, which makes them less attractive for use in food products,” explains professor Dewettinck. “Our challenge is to create innovative fats that work in food products and that will be both healthy and tasty.”

Apart from the motivation to improve the healthiness of food, the laboratory wants to anchor this specialised food knowledge in Flanders. “By combining our expertise and technology with the experience and means of a Flemish enterprise that can rely on an international network, we are putting Flanders on the world map,” professor Dewettinck says.

The Vandemoortele group provides research equipment and will also finance staff and operational costs. In return, it owns the intellectual property of the developed innovations. The contract of the project runs for five years, “but we certainly hope to prolong this programme after that period,” says professor Dewettinck. “This is a longterm plan.”

www.foodscience.ugent.be

The fats of the future

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