Fat replacers are nonfat substances that act like fat in a
food. An ideal fat replacer would be a substance that has no health risks and
tastes and looks like natural fat but has fewer calories. Fat replacers can be found in foods such as baked goods, cheeses, sour cream, yogurt, margarine, salad dressing, sauces, and gravies.
Fat replacers are categorized into three basic types:
Carbohydrate-based. These are made from
starchy foods, such as corn, cereals, and grains. Most fat replacers today are made from
carbohydrate. Examples include cellulose, gelatin, dextrins, gums, and modified dietary fibers.
Protein-based. These are made by
modifying protein, using egg white or whey from milk. Examples include whey protein and microparticulated egg white and milk protein (such as Simplesse).
Fat-based. These are made by replacing
triglycerides in vegetable oils. Examples include caprenin, salatrim (such as Benefat), and olestra (such as Olean).
Fat replacers may not be listed by their brand names on the
ingredient label, which makes it hard for people to identify them in the foods
If you want to use fat replacers, think about
Current research shows that carbohydrate- and
protein-based fat replacers don't hurt health.
A noncaloric fat
replacer, olestra, interferes with the absorption of fat-soluble substances,
including the fat-soluble vitamins (A, E, D, and K) and carotenoids.
Carotenoids are substances that give plants their color, and they are
antioxidants in your body. Examples include
carotenes and lycopene (found in tomatoes). Side
effects of olestra include cramping, bloating, and loose
Foods that contain fat replacers may have fewer
calories compared to foods that contain fat. But some people may tend to
eat more of the food that contains a replacer, which makes up for the reduction
More research is needed on fat replacers. If you want to include fat replacers in your
diet, talk with a
International Food Information Council Foundation (2009). Questions and answers about fat replacers. Available online: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=Questions_and_Answers_About_Fat_Replacers.
International Food Information Council Foundation (2009). Uses and nutritional impact of fat reduction ingredients. Available online: http://www.foodinsight.org/Resources/Detail.aspx?topic=IFIC_Review_Uses_and_Nutritional_Impact_of_Fat_Reduction_Ingredients_.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.