The nanostructure of edible fats

Apr 26, 2013 by Chelsea Whyte
The nanostructure of edible fats
X-ray diffraction patterns reveal the orientation of fat crystals. The distribution and directionality of these crystal nanostructures (parallel to the shear field in C, randomly arranged in D) affects the flavor and texture of foods.

Researchers at DOE's Brookhaven are using the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS) to categorize the many facets of fat crystals. They've learned that the distribution and directionality of these crystal nanostructures affects the flavor and texture of foods.

From butter in croissants to cocoa solids in chocolate, edible fats pack a flavor punch that delights like no other macronutrient we consume. Fats are the most energy dense macronutrients, providing more than twice as many per gram as proteins or carbohydrates, which may be the reason we've developed a taste for them. Fats are an efficient method of fueling a surviving species, but what gives them their oh-so-delicious disposition?

As explained in a review paper by NSLS user Alejandro Marangoni, published in Soft Matter, fats are made up of fractal-like , which give rise to properties such as flavor, texture, meltability, and mouthfeel. For example, six different forms of crystal structure have been identified for cocoa butter. But only one form will turn out chocolate that tastes and feels good to eat.

Marangoni and his collaborators used x-ray diffraction at NSLS to study their complex arrangements.

"We can witness a very diverse assortment of crystal habits – spherulites, needle-like crystals, microplatelets, disordered crystal aggregates, spherical crystal aggregates, fractal-like aggregates, and even some morphologies that defy proper description.

Despite the wide variety of crystal morphologies, they all share some common attributes: (1) the structures are awe-inspiringly beautiful when viewed under a polarized and (2) the crystalline mass in a network of these crystals is distributed in a fractal fashion."

The discovery and characterization of these nanoplatelets adds to the knowledge upon which the food industry bases its design and engineering of food materials. Understanding how the of fats affects the way foods taste and feel could also potentially be useful when trying to curb the excessive consumption of fat-rich foods.

Explore further: First direct evidence that a mysterious phase of matter competes with high-temperature superconductivity

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How do your crystals grow?

Sep 14, 2010

Because one of the main bottlenecks in determining the structure of protein molecules is producing good isolated single crystals, improved crystallization techniques would be useful in a wide range of genomics and pharmaceutical ...

Can our genes be making us fat?

Mar 22, 2012

While high-fat foods are thought to be of universal appeal, there is actually a lot of variation in the extent to which people like and consume fat. A new study in the March issue of the Journal of Food Science, published by the ...

What's really in that luscious chocolate aroma?

Aug 29, 2011

The mouth-watering aroma of roasted cocoa beans — key ingredient for chocolate — emerges from substances that individually smell like potato chips, cooked meat, peaches, raw beef fat, cooked cabbage, human sweat, ...

Perception and preference may have genetic link to obesity

Mar 05, 2012

About five years ago, animal studies first revealed the presence of entirely novel types of oral fat sensors or receptors on the tongue. Prior to this time, it was believed that fats were perceived only by flavor and texture ...

Recommended for you

Yellowstone's thermal springs—their colors unveiled

Dec 19, 2014

Researchers at Montana State University and Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences in Germany have created a simple mathematical model based on optical measurements that explains the stunning colors of ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.