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How natural oils can be hydrogenated without making unhealthy trans fats
Date:1/23/2009

RIVERSIDE, Calif. To prolong the shelf life of foods, manufacturers often add hydrogen to natural oils, a process called hydrogenation. But hydrogenation also results in the production of trans fats, which have adverse health effects such as raising bad cholesterol and increasing the risk for coronary heart disorders.

Trans fats are found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies and snacks. Health authorities worldwide recommend that people reduce their consumption of trans fats.

Now UC Riverside chemists have designed a catalyst a substance that accelerates a chemical reaction that allows hydrogenated oils to be made while minimizing the production of trans fats.

In their experiments, the researchers, led by Francisco Zaera, a professor of chemistry, used platinum, a common catalyst for these processes. By controlling the shape of the platinum particles, the Zaera group was able to make the catalyst more selective.

Catalytic selectivity refers to the ability of a catalyst to select a specific pathway from among many possible chemical reactions. In the case of the researchers' experiments, selectivity refers to the production of partially hydrogenated fats without the making of trans fats.

Zaera's lab found that the platinum catalyst performed most selectively when its particles assumed tetrahedral shapes, with the atoms arranged in a hexagonal honeycomb lattice. Particles with these shapes allow for the preservation of the harmless cis configuration in the hydrogenated fats. Other lattices, the researchers found, favor the production of trans fats.

Platinum catalysts such as those used by the Zaera group are considered heterogeneous because they exist in a different phase (solid) than the reactants (liquid or gas). Compared with homogeneous catal
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Contact: Iqbal Pittalwala
iqbal@ucr.edu
951-827-6050
University of California - Riverside
Source:Eurekalert

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