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Enzymatic glycerolysis converts vegetable oils into structural fats with the potential to replace palm oil in food products


Current trans fat replacement strategies provide food products with acceptable textural and sensory properties on a large scale, and at a reasonable price, but carry health and environmental burdens. Palm oil is used extensively because of its high solidity and functionality; however, increased production has led to deforestation throughout the world’s tropical regions. To reduce dependence on palm oil it is necessary to find a means of structuring a variety of readily available vegetable oils. Using cottonseed and peanut oils, among others, we show that enzymatic glycerolysis can structure liquid oils into solid fats through monoacylglycerol and diacylglycerol production from their native triacylglycerols without the addition of saturated or hydrogenated fat, thus not altering fatty acid composition. Solid fat contents of cottonseed and peanut oils were increased from 8% to 29% and 9% to 30% at 5 °C, respectively, and 21% and 10% at 20 °C, respectively. Additionally, oil-binding capacity was enhanced significantly. These novel oils were used to produce margarine and peanut butter with similar textural properties to commercial products and, importantly, represent a healthy and sustainable means to replace hydrogenated or saturated fats.

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Fig. 1: Partial glycerol contents in glycerolysis reaction products.
Fig. 2: Effects of glycerolysis conditions on crystallization, SFC and oil binding.
Fig. 3: SFC melting profiles of glycerolysis reaction products.
Fig. 4: Implications of glycerolysis reaction product properties on microstructure.
Fig. 5: Optimally structured cottonseed oil glycerolysis product.
Fig. 6: Stabilization of peanut butter with peanut oil glycerolysis product.

Data availability

Data are available upon request from the authors and source data are provided with this paper.


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We acknowledge the financial support of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) Program, the Government of Ontario and the Barrett Foundation.

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R.A.N. contributed to the planning and execution of all experimental procedures and the writing of the manuscript. A.G.M. contributed to the experimental planning and the writing of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Alejandro G. Marangoni.

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Nicholson, R.A., Marangoni, A.G. Enzymatic glycerolysis converts vegetable oils into structural fats with the potential to replace palm oil in food products. Nat Food 1, 684–692 (2020).

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