Cholesterol-lowering snack chips

Monday, 06 June, 2005

Brandeis University biology professor KC Hayes and Senior Research Associate Andy Pronczuk at the school's Foster Biomedical Research Laboratory, and Senior Scientist Daniel Periman in the Physics Department have discovered a way to produce chips and other snack foods that can actually lower your cholesterol while you eat them - without having any impact on taste.

The Brandeis research team found that soybean-derived phytosterols (natural sterols that occur in plants) helped block cholesterol uptake (present in animal fat). When added to the cooking oil used to prepare snack chips and other foods, these natural sterols lowered LDL (the so-called 'bad' cholesterol).

In a clinical study chronicled in the American Society for Nutritional Sciences' Journal of Nutrition, the Hayes team followed 10 subjects who achieved a 15% decrease in their LDL cholesterol and a 10% drop in total cholesterol after eating two one-ounce servings of phytosterol-enriched tortilla chips each day over a four-week period.

While the health benefits of phytosterols have been known for years - both the National Cholesterol Education Program and American Heart Association have recommended the addition of phytosterols to the diet to help reduce cholesterol - their use in everyday foods has been limited to margarines and salad oils, largely for technical reasons of incorporation.

Researchers had failed previously to develop a method to add phytosterols to frying oil to extend their benefit to fried foods products, but the Hayes research team discovered that fat-borne phytosterols, after adequate heating and then cooling, recrystallise in a form that effectively blocks cholesterol absorption. Commercial applications of the research are being protected by patent applications filed by the university.

The benefits of phytosterols could be expanded beyond snack foods, such as French fries and chips, to include breads and cake mixes, according to Hayes.

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