Advances in our understanding of the structure and functionality of edible fats and fat mimetics
The reasons for the increased world-wide incidence of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease include sedentary lifestyles and poor food choices. Regulatory agencies in several countries now require companies to add unattractive front of package labels to their products where salt, sugar and fat (or saturated fat) levels are prominently displayed. After the demise of partially hydrogenated fats, saturated fat has become the new target. Consumption of saturated fat over polyunsaturated oil has been clearly shown to increase cholesterol levels in humans. However, saturated fats provide the functionality required in many food products. To complicate matters, concerns over sustainability, veganism, genetically modified organisms, animal welfare, as well as religious beliefs, severely limits our sources of saturated fat. In this review we will discuss recent advances in our understanding of the nano and mesoscale structure of fats, responsible for their physical functionality and contrast it to that of fat mimetics. Fat mimetics include polymeric networks of ethylcellulose, emulsion-templated networks of proteins and polysaccharides, colloidal and self-assembled fibrillar networks of polar lipid crystals, as well as solid o/w emulsions of oil trapped within crystallized lamellar mesophases. Clean label and economic considerations will also be touched upon.