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New fake fat: tastes good, less filling

August 25, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EDT

From Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen


ATLANTA (CNN) -- How many times have you lamented that "everything that tastes good is bad for you?"

Fat, the part of food that helps make it palatable, is a major no-no in the battle of the bulge, and to date fat substitutes haven't quite managed to replace the real thing.

Now, however, there's new hope for the health-conscious: a fake fat that has no calories at all and is completely natural.

Z-Trim, made from oat fiber, is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) new fake fat. Its inventors claim the product can make a nice juicy burger taste just as good with 14 percent less fat, and cut 25 percent of the fat and calories out of cheese spreads without changing the taste or consistency.

Even the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which attacked the fake fat Olestra, says Z-Trim appears to be safe and a useful tool for losing weight.

Although you can't deep fry foods in Z-Trim the way you can in Olestra, for everything else, the theory is simple. Fat has nine calories in every gram. Z-Trim has zero calories per gram.

Thus, if you take some of the fat out of a burger or cheese and replace it with the oat fiber gel, the food loses none of its consistency, but drops calories.


"It's a new generation in fighting fat and it can provide another instrument for the food industry," said George Inglett, a biochemist with the USDA in Peoria, Illinois. It took him three years of research to come up with Z-Trim.

He baked a batch of brownies up in his lab to conduct taste tests of the product. According to Inglett, his brownies, made with a 50 percent mixture of fat and Z-Trim got a unanimous thumbs up by a panel of 25 people in his laboratory, who all said they were just as good as the full- fat kind.

Fat replacers are nothing new. They've been used for years in everything from baked goods to processed meats to cheeses. But the inventor of Z-Trim says this product is better from both a nutrition and a taste point of view.


For example, a fat-free hot dog already on the market uses potato starch as a fat replacer -- but potato starch still has calories. Z-Trim has none, and Inglett says it tastes better, too.

Olestra, another fat replacer, has been blamed for causing cases of intestinal cramping and diarrhea. Z-Trim doesn't do that, according to USDA.

Inglett says adding a small amount of Z-Trim to foods even seems to have a health benefit, because it adds a small amount of fiber to the diet.


"Grandma called it roughage, and fiber is a wonderful bulking agent that helps food move through the gastrointestinal tract. We all need it, we don't get enough of it and here's a great opportunity to add a few more grams of it to your diet," said registered dietitian Kathleen Zelman.

However, Zelman warns, just because a food is lower in fat, that doesn't mean you can eat it with reckless abandon. A burger with 14 percent less fat still has plenty of fat and calories.

Because Z-Trim is made from ingredients that are generally regarded as safe, Inglett said it will not require exhaustive testing for Food and Drug Administration approval.

The FDA so far tends to agree although it has not seen the product, said Judith Foulke, a department spokeswoman.

Inglett expects that Z-Trim will be in products in the grocery store next year. Then, consumers can decide for themselves if products with Z-Trim really do taste like their full-fat counterparts.

Reuters contributed to this report.


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