Cut the fat; cut the calories. That message resonates with American consumers so much that two out of three said they try to eat as little fat as possible, according to the 2012 Food and Health survey of consumer attitudes by the International Food Information Council Foundation.

Things get complicated, however, because consumers also love their indulgences. Many of their favorite baked foods carry significant levels of fat and calories.

Bakery shortenings, in particular, pose a conundrum to formulators. The intricate and difficult problem involves their hard fat content, which not only plasticizes liquid oils into functional shortenings but also supplies the texture, structure and appeal of premium baked foods. Previously, the hard fat content was achieved through hydrogenation, which added trans fats, or by blending them with oilstocks containing saturated fats.

A group of scientists at The Proctor & Gamble Co., Cincinnati, OH, led by Peter Y.T. Lin, PhD, principal scientist, P&G Food Ingredients, decided to take another look at olestra (brand name Olean), the company’s zero-calorie fat replacer. With six to eight fatty acids attached to a sucrose core, olestra’s molecular size is two to three times that of triglyceride fats, accounting for its lack of calories.

“The enzyme in our bodies responsible for fat digestion, lipase, cannot digest Olean because of this size difference,” Dr. Lin said. “Scientifically this is known as stearic hindrance. The effect is well-documented and accepted by the Food and Drug Administration.

“An Olean bakery shortening, consisting of 75% Olean, 25% soybean oil and Trancendim, will have only one-quarter of the fat and calorie content of a typical shortening,” he continued. “It will also contain approximately 80% less saturated fat compared to an interesterified zero-trans shortening and, of course, no trans fat at all.”

Until now, Olean had only been used as a frying oil. The breakthrough proved to be Trancendim, a line of diglyceride structuring agents from Caravan Ingredients, Lenexa, KS. It speeds up crystallization to allow more efficient preparation of the shortening, Dr. Lin explained.

In the past two years, P&G developed a new patent-pending form of Olean that enabled 1:1 drop-in shortenings with 75% fewer calories.

“The new shortenings have significantly better mouthfeel in baked foods, which are indistinguishable from their full-fat versions,” Dr. Lin said.

During commercialization, many bakeries evaluated Olean bakery shortenings, according to Donald Appleby, marketing manager, P&G Food Ingredients. “Targeted usage also includes cakes, pastries, cinnamon rolls, breads, cheesecakes and more,” he said.

P&G is not in the shortening business, Mr. Appleby explained. Instead, the company works with shortening producers. Olean all-purpose bakery shortening is currently available directly from AAK, Edison, NJ, and is distributed by Dawn Food Products, Jackson, MI.

Scientific, technical and dietary details behind Olean fat substitutes are explained at