High-oleic oils are making a name for themselves in the food industry. This shows promise in a global fats and oils market projected to reach $274.78 billion by 2021, according to MarketsandMarkets.1 Labels are touting their high-oleic status are drawing the interest of consumers, and rightfully so. There are a variety of benefits in the aspects of nutrition, food safety, and food quality to both consumers and formulators.
What is high-oleic oil?
Oils have varying proportions of different types of fatty acids in them. Fatty acids are classified as saturated or unsaturated, with the latter being further categorized into monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.
High-oleic oils contain higher proportions, up to 80 percent, of monounsaturated fats, specifically, oleic acid.2 Some oils such as olive oil have naturally higher proportions of oleic acid, but most high-oleic oils must be created through biotechnology, advanced breeding, and genetic modification.3 Examples of these include high-oleic versions of canola oil, soybean oil, and sunflower oil, all of which are becoming increasingly popular.
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Food safety and quality
As monounsaturated fatty acids only have one location of unsaturation, they are far less subject to oxidation and subsequent rancidity than polyunsaturated fatty acids.2,3 Rancid fats are accompanied by unpleasant flavor and odor. Since they are resistant to oxidation, high-oleic oils have an increased shelf life, allowing for their use in products that are considered to be more shelf-stable. This is an especially promising feature because food quality can be maintained with use of high-oleic oils. Foods will retain characteristics of the fresh product for longer, and still be safe to consume.
The oxidation-resistant trait of high-oleic oils also gives them a higher smoke point, meaning they can tolerate much higher heat, such as in frying, before the molecule is damaged, as compared to other oils traditionally used for such methods.
In the past, shelf-stable products with desirable attributes were achieved with trans fats, created in the process of hydrogenation, in which hydrogen atoms were added to unsaturated fats saturate them. The resultant fatty acids were of a different isomer than naturally occurring cis saturated fats, thus becoming known as trans fats.
Recently, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has recommended elimination of the Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) status of trans fats, in light of recent findings that such fats are detrimental to heart health and may be carcinogenic.2
In contrast, research has thus far shown high-oleic oils to be safe for consumption.4 The oleic acid is naturally occurring and is simply present in greater proportions. This is a drastic improvement from trans fats used in the past.
Since high-oleic oils are higher in monounsaturated fats, they are beneficial to heart health. Monounsaturated fats have been shown to decrease LDL (commonly known as “bad”) cholesterol, as well as triglycerides that are associated with heart disease at high levels. Simultaneously, monounsaturated fats increase HDL (“good”) cholesterol, and, if present at >12 percent of total calorie intake in one’s diet, they lower fat mass and decrease blood pressure.5
As a replacement for trans fats, high-oleic oils shine even more brightly in the realm of nutrition. Not only do trans fats increase “bad” LDL, but they decrease “good” HDL, leaving the window of opportunity wide open for high-oleic oils to demonstrate vast nutritional superiority.
Since high-oleic oils offer greater molecular stability to decrease oxidation, it can be cost effective to choose these oils over traditional oils for a variety of purposes.
- High-oleic oils can be a bit more costly per unit as compared to other oils, however, since the high-oleic oils have a longer shelf life, the cost over time is likely to be lower.
- High-oleic oils used in frying last longer than other oils, reducing costs over time of purchasing oil for frying.2
- Health-conscious consumers may be more likely to choose products made with high-oleic oils to maximize their health.
References and resources
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