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Breath of fresh air for innovation

By Dr Paul Berryman , 02-Jul-2010

Since this is supposed to be an ingredients column, I thought I'd tell you about the latest ingredients research at Leatherhead.

I'll describe two projects to reduce calorie intake. One uses air as an ingredient and the other uses seaweed extract to curb appetite, following the article covering a similar subject on June's Ingredients page.

Food aeration is not entirely new. It's a key ingredient of ice cream. But at Leatherhead we're exploring how to use air as an ingredient in a range of foods.

It can introduce delicate textures, lower fat content, induce satiety and reduce calorie density. Why not eat tasty, light, delicate foods instead of energy-dense fattening foods? The project will also look at air as a flavour and nutrient carrier the ultimate no-calorie functional ingredient?

An extreme example of the aerated product is 'Le Whif'. Hailed as a dieter's dream, it consists of a small aerosol containing about ten puffs of dark chocolate to spray into the mouth. It is supposed to provide the pleasure of the real thing without the guilt. Particles are small enough to be airborne, but too big to enter the lungs or do any damage. David Edwards, a Harvard professor who invented the spray claims it only takes a touch of chocolate to satisfy our tastebuds. I'm not so sure.

Our second project looks at using hydrocolloids to help weight loss. One idea is to use alginates (seaweed extracts) to form a gel in the stomach, increasing feelings of fullness or satiety. By using specific alginates, we could produce a milkshake that was smooth and creamy in the glass but formed a gel in the stomach. We will also be looking at alginate and xanthan mixed systems, which on dilution in the stomach will produce thicker gels due to phase inversion but I won't dazzle you with the details!

So what would you prefer in your food air or seaweed?

Dr Paul Berryman is chief executive of Leatherhead Food Research .

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