We recommend a balanced diet including a variety of foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium.
What are fat substitutes?
Fat substitutes are ingredients that mimic one or more of the roles of fat in a food. They're classified into three categories based on their nutrient source:
- Carbohydrate-based fat substitutes use plant polysaccharides in place of fat.
- Proteins and microparticulated proteins are used as fat replacers.
- Fat-based fat replacers act as "barriers" to block fat absorption.
How are fat substitutes used?
Fat substitutes have been developed to decrease the quantity of fat in foods and help people lower their fat intake. Some fat replacers are used as "fat substitutes" or "fat analogs" and replace fat in a food. Others are used as "fat mimetics" to partially replace fat and impart the sensory qualities of fat (taste and feel in the mouth).
Some evidence suggests that people who include fat-modified products in their diet may have a reduced fat and calorie intake and improved nutrient profile compared with people who don't use any fat-modified products.
Are fat substitutes safe and helpful?
Fat-modified products have been introduced into the food supply recently and only affect a few foods so far. Although fat substitutes on the market are considered safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), their long-term benefits and safety are not known. The cumulative impact of using multiple fat substitutes as they increase in the marketplace is unknown. Still, within the context of a healthy diet that meets dietary recommendations, fat substitutes used appropriately can provide flexibility with diet planning.
Related AHA publications:
- Easy Food Tips for Heart-Healthy Eating (also in Spanish)
- Making Healthy Food and Lifestyle Choices
- Reading Food Labels: A Handbook for People with Diabetes, order from American Diabetes Association (1-800-232-3472)
Related AHA Scientific Statements:
Body Composition Tests
Dietary Recommendations for Healthy Children
Fats and Oils