The ingredient - produced by USDA chemist Erica Bakota - is primarily made up of unrefined rice bran oil and natural wax from rice bran, which is already used in confectionary. It also contains small quantities of functionally beneficial compounds such as vitamin E, plant sterols, and gamma-oryzanol - which has been shown to lower levels of 'bad' LDL cholesterol in humans.
Unlike some shortenings and margarines, the extract is free of trans fats, which have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, while the team also noted that it is shelf-stable and resists oxidation that could otherwise result in off-flavours and unpleasant doors.
Bakota said the product 'looks something like a nut butter' and 'shows promise for several uses', including as a replacement for some of the butter, margarine, or shortening currently used in popular baked goods.
“We think our product can make the fat profile of many familiar foods much more healthful—and still get high ratings from taste testers," she commented.
“The texture and composition of our product are unique."
The team used a solvent fractionation procedure for the production of the spreadable product - with the ARS now seeking a patent for the extraction procedure.
Writing in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, Bakota and her co-workers performed preliminary experiments which substituted the extract in place of some of the butter some bakery products including white bread and granola.
"In this work we incorporate the material into edible oils and baked goods to evaluate its suitability for continued development as an ingredient," wrote the team.
The results showed that in a frying oil, the material could extend the life of the oil by protecting the oil from oxidation during heating.
"We also show through sensory studies that this material can be successfully used in a bread or granola as a substitute for a portion of the butter or margarine."
"The high stability and positive sensory reception of this ingredient suggest that this spread might be suitable for further development into a functional food that is allergen-free, trans-fat free, and high in antioxidants," concluded the ARS researchers.
Source: European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1002/ejlt.201300259
"Evaluation of a rice bran oil-derived spread as a functional ingredient"
Authors: Erica L. Bakota, Jill K. Winkler-Moser, Sean X. Liu