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Researcher Creates New Fat Substitute

August 26, 1996

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) _ Dietetic brownies, oatmeal cookies and pancake mixes may soon come with a new type of fake fat that its developer says will enhance flavor and texture without producing any unpleasant side effects.

A U.S. Agriculture Department researcher has used fiber from the hulls of oats, corn and soybeans to develop a fat substitute called Z-trim, which he promises will not cause the cramps and diarrhea sometimes associated with olestra, another zero-calorie fat substitute.

``This has been processed in such a way as to be very comfortable to the body,″ said George Inglett. ``There’s no way that anybody would overdose on this.″

Inglett, who was to present his product today at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Orlando, Fla., explained it to reporters Friday and provided samples. Products using Z-trim could be on store shelves next year, he said.

A Z-trim chocolate bar was sweet and chewy, with no unusual aftertaste. On the other hand, a cheese spread tasted like most low-fat spreads: flat and a bit gluey.

Nutrition experts welcomed the new fat substitute.

``I think it’s terrific to see this kind of innovation,″ said Margo Wootan, senior scientist for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a private association in Washington, D.C., that has campaigned against olestra and fatty restaurant food.

Wootan said she believes the fat substitute is likely to perform as promised.

Olestra is a synthetic chemical made of sugar and vegetable oil that looks like regular fat. But it has molecules so large and tightly packed that it passes through the human digestive tract without being taken in by the body. Critics say it absorbs and takes away some vitamins.

In Z-trim, insoluble natural fiber is broken down so that it can be combined with water to create a substance that mimics the smooth feel of fat without actually having any fat molecules.

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 spokeswoman Judith Foulke.

The Agriculture Department developed Z-trim in cooperation with Mountain Lake Manufacturing of Mountain Lake, Minn. The company gets first crack at marketing Z-trim, Inglett said.

Z-trim is intended for use by food manufacturers for products such as cheese, chocolate and pancakes. Unlike olestra, however, it cannot be used in deep frying.

But don’t expect products containing the product to be free of calories or fat. Most fat substitutes are combined with a little real fat to provide a balance between nutrition and flavor, Inglett said.

Typical cheese spreads contain 70 or 80 calories per ounce and fat-free spreads contain about 33 calories. Inglett said his Z-trim spread contained only 22 calories.

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