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Checkbiotech: Biotechnology helps create a healthier french fry
Posted by: DR. RAUPP (IP Logged)
Date: December 07, 2004 07:23AM ;

Genetically enhanced potatoes absorb less oil when cooking.

Fueled by increased health concerns, consumers are passing on the
once-ubiquitous side order of french fries in record numbers. Meanwhile,
fast-food restaurants ? the biggest purveyors of french fry fare ? are
looking for more healthy alternatives for their customers.

A genetically enhanced potato that absorbs less oil when fried could help
create healthier french fries and healthier consumers. Researchers have
developed a genetically enhanced potato with up to nearly two-thirds more
starch than ordinary potatoes. The increased starch content increases the
potatoes' density so they fry crisp without absorbing as much oil as their
less-dense counterparts. The same technology could be used to create
lower-fat potato chips as well.(1)

By inserting a gene into potatoes that improves the conversion of sucrose,
or sugar, into starch, the starch content of potatoes has been increased by
between 30 percent (2) and 60 percent. (3)

Increasing the starch content reduces the moisture in potatoes, which means
less oil is taken up by potatoes when they are cooked. That makes for a
healthier food product. And it also reduces cooking costs.

French fry manufacturers reported that 2003 marked the biggest sales decline
in 15 years ? down 5 percent for wholesale and 10 percent for retail in
2002 ? although they still reign as the United States' most popular side
dish by a wide margin. (4)

That drop-off follows a continuing decrease since 2000 in french fry sales
at restaurants. Sales were down 3.3 percent in 2002 and 2.9 percent in 2001,
according to a 2003 U.S. Potato Board report, "Get the Hard Facts About Our
Changing French-Fry Market." When consumers were asked why they were eating
fewer french fries, 72 percent said they were concerned about their diet or
health. (5)

"Consumers widely perceive fries to be 'bad for you,'" according to the
report. "Although they like fries, consumers are eating fewer of them
because of nutrition and health concerns." (6)

Martina Newell-McGloughlin, director of the University of California
system-wide biotechnology research and education program, said researchers
still have to perfect the even distribution of starch granules in the
enhanced potatoes, but that the higher-starch potatoes had huge potential
for improving the nutritional value of fast-food french fries.

"A meeting of potato and oil is a major part of what they are doing," she
said. "The ability to have a healthful product could have a significant
impact on the industry."

In addition to the healthful benefits of a potato that absorbs less cooking
oil, biotechnology is also being used to produce oil that is better for you.

A University of Nebraska researcher has developed a soybean ? whose oil
makes up more than 80 percent of all the edible oil consumed in the United
States (7) ? that is higher in healthy monounsaturated fats that remain
stable when used in cooking at high temperatures.

Stable monounsaturated fats are important for cooking because they don't
need to be hydrogenated to make them more stable, as is required with oils
that are high in polyunsaturated fats such as olive and some canola oils.
Hydrogenation describes a process where hydrogen atoms are added to oil to
prevent it from turning rancid and to keep it stable at room temperature.
This is done with some types of peanut butter, for example, to keep it a
consistent texture at room temperature; other, non-hydrogenated peanut
butter must be kept in the refrigerator and must be stirred to mix the oil
with the peanuts.

The problem with hydrogenated vegetable oils is that they can produce
harmful trans fats, which can raise bad cholesterol levels and actually
lower good cholesterol in the body.

As obesity becomes a greater public health problem around the world ? and in
the United States in particular ? pressure is growing to provide more
healthful foods.

About 300,000 people die each year in the United States as a result of
obesity or being overweight ? only smoking kills more Americans. (8)
Britain's Health Development Agency reports 15 percent of 15-year-olds and
8.5 percent of 6-year-olds are classified obese.(9) In addition, a 1998
study revealed nearly half of all Canadians were overweight.(10)

Newell-McGloughlin said increased consumer awareness of the healthy benefits
of an improved biotech potato, coupled with increased consumer desire for
healthy foods, could create demand for genetically enhanced food.

"With a quality output characteristic, then I think you have a real
potential selling point for the consumer," she said. "And when the consumer
wants it, the producer makes it available."

For more information:

Will Blight-Proof Biotech Potatoes Bring Us Lower-Fat Fries? ? Center for
Global Food Issues

Americans Are Obsessed With Fast Food: The Dark Side of the All-American
Meal ?

Designer Foods: Enhancing Nutrition With Biotechnology ? American Medical
Association Briefing

Biotech and Better Health? Council for Biotechnology Information

Building a Better Bean ? Council for Biotechnology Information

Products in the Pipeline ? Council for Biotechnology Information

A New Biotech Potato is Resistant to the Potato Disease That Triggered the
Irish Potato Famine ? Council for Biotechnology Information

(1) Curtis, Kynda R.; McCluskey, Jill J.; and Wahl, Thomas I. "Is China the
Market for Genetically Modified Potatoes?" AgBioForum The Journal of
Agrobiotechnology Management and Economics, Volume 5, Number 4, Article 6,

(2) Newell-McGloughlin, Martina. "Designer Foods: Enhancing Nutrition with
Biotechnology," American Medical Association Briefing on Food Biotechnology,
Oct. 4, 2001, ama_mcgloughlin.pdf.

(3) "Harvest on the Horizon: Future Uses of Agricultural Biotechnology," Pew
Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, September 2001, .

(4) Horovitz, Bruce, " Q: Do you want fries with that? A: Nope," USA Today,
Sept. 21, 2003,

(5) "Get the Hard Facts About Our Changing French-Fry Market," United States
Potato Board, 2003.

(6) "Get the Hard Facts About Our Changing French-Fry Market," United States
Potato Board, 2003.

(7) "ASA Responds to FDA Call for Trans Fat Labeling," American Soybean
Association press release, July 9, 2003,

(8) "Obsessed by Fast Food ? Will Fast Food Become the Death of Us?", January 8, 2002,

9 "Parents told to play role in tackling child obesity," Guardian Unlimited,
Oct. 8, 2003,

10 "Obesity Statistics," CBC News, October, 2002,


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