Chemists use sugar-based gelators to solidify vegetable oils

Dec 19, 2013
Mannitol dioctanoate in canola oil self assembles into a crystalline network that encapsulates the oil, causing it to take on a semisolid form. Credit: George John

Researchers at The City College of New York have reported the successful transformation of vegetable oils to a semisolid form using low-calorie sugars as a structuring agent. The findings portend the development of alternatives to structured oil products produced using saturated/trans fatty acids, which have been linked to coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes.

The team, led by City College Professor of Chemistry George John, tested two sugar alcohol-based gelators, mannitol dioctanoate (M8) and sorbitol dioctanoate (S8), as structuring agents for four refined vegetable oils purchased at local grocery stores: , olive oil, and grape seed oil. Both are amphiphiles – i.e. molecules that are attracted to water and fats – consisting of two octanoic acid chains (C8) appended to a sugar alcohol molecule.

Oils are transformed to semisolid forms known as structured oils. The best known of these are and margarine. Structured oils are also contained in candy and cake frosting.

"We have demonstrated the first sugar-based thickening agents for oil," said Professor John, whose previous investigations into the use of amphiphiles to solidify oil in the presence of water demonstrated their potential use in oil spill cleanups. He added that the two agents meet both Food & Drug Administration and GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) safety specifications, so they can be used for food processing.

Both M8 and S8 demonstrated excellent gelation tendencies for all of the oils that were tested, and the gels remained stable for several months. When mixed with the oils, the gelation agents self-assembled into three-dimensional crystalline networks that encapsulated the in liquid stage. Optimal gelation was achieved at structuring agent concentrations between three percent and five percent.

However, some differences between the two agents were reported. For example, mannitol gels were opaque in appearance while those made with sorbitol were translucent. That was because M8 yields a more densely packed network while the network of S8 gels consisted of needle-like microcrystallites.

Mannitol was found to be a more efficient gelator, producing stronger gels. However, Professor John pointed out that sorbitol-based , which have finer structures and appear more translucent, would be better suited for specific applications. "The multi-functionality and tunability of sugar-based gelators presents opportunities to develop next-generation oil thickeners," he added.

Explore further: Some 'healthy' vegetable oils may actually increase risk of heart disease

More information: The findings were reported in the November 15 issue of the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry: J. Agric. Food Chem. 2013, DOI: 10.1021/jf401987a

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Oregano oil may help sunflower seeds keep longer

Dec 13, 2013

Sunflower seeds and sunflower oils have been shown to decrease risk of cardiovascular disease as well as have potential beneficial effects on obesity, bone health, and blood pressure. However their high protein and fat content ...

Monosaturated fats reduce metabolic syndrome risk

Mar 29, 2013

Canola oil and high-oleic canola oils can lower abdominal fat when used in place of other selected oil blends, according to a team of American and Canadian researchers. The researchers also found that consuming certain vegetable ...

Sugar battles oil spills

Aug 12, 2010

The environment has often suffered from the catastrophic effects of an oil spill, the most recent example being the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The search for ways to remove oil from polluted water is ...

What's healthier, butter or margarine?

Dec 16, 2013

Butter gets points for taste; margarine for being easy to spread. But the healthiest option is not strictly called butter or margarine – it's a "spread".

Recommended for you

A new approach to creating organic zeolites

Jul 24, 2014

Yushan Yan, Distinguished Professor of Engineering at the University of Delaware, is known worldwide for using nanomaterials to solve problems in energy engineering, environmental sustainability and electronics.

A tree may have the answers to renewable energy

Jul 23, 2014

Through an energy conversion process that mimics that of a tree, a University of Wisconsin-Madison materials scientist is making strides in renewable energy technologies for producing hydrogen.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Jimee
not rated yet Jan 05, 2014
We must be free to give ourselves heart disease! Stop the socialist scientists!