Project Details


The primary goal of the proposed research is to investigate the feasibility of structuring liquid oils into gels. Unsaturated oils, high in mono and polyunsaturated fats, have been shown to have cardio protective benefits. However, they lack the physical structure to make functional foods. Hence, we hope to replace heart unhealthy solid fats with gelled heart healthy oils. In order to implement this new technology into foods, we need to first understand the mechanism in which small molecules gel oil. There are a promising class of compounds which self-assemble into fibers and produce a butter-like fat without the addition of trans or saturated fats. These compounds, as in the case of ceramides and phytosterols, also have additional health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, reducing early cancer tumor growth and minimizing atherosclerosis. Most commonly, saturated and trans fatty acids are used to provide structure to lipid based food products. Although the structure they confer on products is desirable and, indeed, required in many products, both types of fatty acids have been shown to deleteriously influence human health. For example, when healthy individuals were fed diets enriched with trans- and saturated-fatty acids a reduction in the high-density-lipoprotien (HDL), the cardio-protective form of cholesterol, was observed. In addition, trans-fatty acids increase concentrations of lipoprotein A. Both the reduction in the high density lipoprotein (HDL) and elevations in lipoprotein A increase the risk of ischemic heart disease leading to increased risk of myocardial infarctions. At the same time, it is important not to generalize all saturated fatty acids as detrimental. Stearic acid does not increase low density lipoprotein (LDL) or decrease HDL; there is no adverse health effects of this fatty acid as it pertains to lipoprotein metabolism. Polyunsaturated oils (i.e., linoleic, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)) have beneficial health implications due to the fact that they do no elevate levels of LDL in the blood.
Effective start/end date7/1/126/30/17


  • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA))


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