Not all fats are created equal

Technical Editor Clay Gordon dives into the history of formulating with oils and fats, and showcases one example on the market now: EPG 

In this exclusive feature for International Confectionery Magazine, Technical Editor Clay Gordon writes about the history of fats and oils, going back in time to understand this desire for healthier fats and oils in the food industry and where it came from. Delving into the technicalities of fats and oils in baked goods, he writes that finding a low-calorie fat replacement has been the goal of American-based business Epogee and it hasn’t necessarily been an easy task. 

Knowing the history and extent of US federal government’s involvement in the diets of Americans is essential for understanding how the low-fat craze came to dominate the culinary imagination of Americans – and American food manufacturers – from the 1960s to today.  

In 1968, the US Senate appointed George McGovern to chair a Select Committee (on Nutrition and Human Needs) with a mandate to look into the problem of hunger in America. The committee’s work resulted in the release, in 1977, of the report, Dietary Goals for the United States, which report promoted increased consumptions carbohydrates and reduced consumption of fats, sugar, and salt.  

By the time the report was released, sugar replacements had been a part of a formulator’s kit for decades. Saccharin (from the word “saccharine,” meaning sugary, or overly sweet) was accidentally discovered in the late-1800s. It is 500 times sweeter than sucrose and infamous for its bitter metallic taste, especially in high concentrations. By 1907, saccharin was in widespread use, but most Americans had no idea it was in their food. Cyclamate is 30-50 times sweeter than sucrose and was also an accidental discovery (in 1937). Often mixed with saccharin to mask the off tastes of both, cyclamate became widely accepted during the 1950s, riding the wave in popularity of diet sodas. (Anyone remember TAB?) 

Beginning in 1955, while at the University of Minnesota, nutrition scientist Ancel Keys began conducting large-scale clinical studies in an attempt to prove the “lipid hypothesis” correct. In the (now) heavily criticised Seven Countries Study, Keys reported associations between diet and disease rates across the populations of seven countries and individuals within those populations. 

In 1961, Keys became a member of the nutrition committee for the American Heart Association (AHA), and soon thereafter the AHA began recommending that the American public reduce saturated fat and cholesterol intake from butter, fatty meat, egg yolk, and full-fat dairy, recommending they be replaced with low-fat polyunsaturated oils and margarine. The AHA’s recommendations prompted physicians to encourage their patients to switch to low-fat diets, and food manufacturers began to formulate products low in saturated fats and cholesterol to meet the demand.  

One problem with this switch was (unknown at the time), that the Sugar Research Fund (the US sugar industry’s lobbying arm) had been funding research since the early 1960s downplaying the dietary risks of sugar and playing up the hazards of fats…

Read the full feature in our magazine.

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Media contact

Caitlin Gittins
Editor, International Confectionery
Tel: +44 (0) 1622 823 920

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