The word from a joint GRDC/Meadow Lea workshop on oilseeds and health (see story p1)) is that Australian grain oils are in position to replace a major source of saturated fats in Australian diets with a healthier product at a reasonable price. That's good news for growers as well.
"There is a big opportunity to replace some of the annual consumption of 130,000 tonnes of tallow and 100,000 tonnes of imported palm oil (both saturated fats) in the prepared food market, with Australian oilseeds," said Ron Bowrey, Meadow Lea Divisional Manager Research and Development. He said Meadow Lea's Sunola™ was developed to meet this opportunity.
Statistics show Australians now consume about five times as much palm oil in their diets as Americans. And, on average, Australian diets have almost twice the recommended amount of saturated fats. Nutritional research is helping oilseeds compete in a market that has favoured animal and other saturated fats because of taste and price.
Butter is an obvious example where people buy on price. Tallow and palm oil, which are heavily used in commercial foods, are both cheap and tasty. But saturated fats have been linked by medical authorities to obesity, heart disease and other health conditions in some adults.
All fats aren't equal
At a time when consumers are being told 'fat makes you fat', a key message from the nutrition research workshop is that, within bounds, the kind of fat you ingest may make more of a difference than the amount. (Another important message is that research findings indicting saturated fats should not be applied wholesale to growing children whose developmental and energy needs are different to adults'.)
"People hear the message about fat making you fat and they'll cut out the margarine on their bread, but they won't worry about the fat that's on foods they buy outside the home," said Dr Bowrey. That can make a big difference when 30 cents in every Australian food dollar spent now goes for food prepared outside the home (in the US it is 50 cents).