Dieters take note! It may soon be possible to buy low-fat cakes and cheeses that have the same taste and texture as their waistline-increasing counterparts. Research conducted at Scotland's Heriot-Watt University and University of Edinburgh has resulted in a method of using proteins to "fill in" for fats.
Previous studies have already led to the production of protein-for-fat yogurts and other creamy goods, but the substitution process wasn't deemed convincing enough to work on firmer foods.
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By studying the manner in which the chemical structure of proteins changes when they're heated or otherwise processed, however, the Scottish scientists were able to create modified proteins that behave more like fats. More specifically, these proteins are better at breaking down into micro-particles when processed, much as fats do.
It is hoped that once the proteins are perfected, they will allow food manufacturers to include less fat in their products without affecting quality – a computer model is being developed to let those manufacturers know what amount of the proteins will be needed for different types of foods.
Additionally, because the proteins are particularly good at mimicking the gelling effect of eggs, users could conceivably save money by not having to use as many eggs.
The technology is the result of a three-year research project, and is being developed further by spin-off company Nandi Proteins. The protein-for-fat cakes, cheeses and other food products could start showing up commercially within two years.