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Illinois Company Licenses High-Fiber Fat ReplacerBy Jan Suszkiw
October 25, 2002
"Z-trim," a natural, high-fiber fat replacer made from crop commodities such as oat, soybean or rice hulls, may be a step closer to becoming a commercial product for reduced-calorie foods.
Towards that end, Circle Group Internet, Inc. of Mundelein, Ill., recently acquired Fiber-Gels Technologies, Inc., a technology holding interest that had previously licensed exclusive rights to the fat replacer from the Agricultural Research Service.
ARS chemist George Inglett originally developed the fat replacer around 1995 while investigating methods of turning crop components like fiber and starch into new, value-added products. In evaluations at ARS' National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, Ill., Inglett showed that Z-trim imparts many of fat's desired characteristics to foods. These include pleasing texture, "mouth feel," body and moisture retention.
Inglett initially called his invention "Fake Fat" because, unlike some other products, it adds no calories to food--only insoluble fiber, which aids digestion. He later changed the name to Z-trim when ARS patented his invention in June 1998 on behalf of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Circle Group intends to submit Z-trim to the Food and Drug Administration for classification as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) ingredient. The company plans to seek commercial food processors to help market Z-trim for use in dairy products, baked goods, ground meats, pasta, snack foods and nutritional drinks.
In ARS baking trials, mixing one-half teaspoon of Z-trim into brownie mix cut 29 grams of fat (261 calories). Trained sensory panelists who sampled the brownies, which contained 15.5 percent fat, ranked them favorably to brownies with 25 percent fat, Inglett reports. Hamburgers containing Z-trim had 10-15 percent less fat than normal patties, depending on how much was used.
Circle Group's license coincides with recent estimates that more than half of Americans are overweight. Interestingly, demand for carbohydrate fat-replacers is rising, with forecasts predicting a $360-million market by 2004.
ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.