Spanish researchers have developed a way of adding olive oil’s phenolic compounds to oils made from seeds, such as sunflower oil, so they form fewer toxic compounds when fried with. reported this week that the Maimonides Institute for Biomedical Research (IMIBIC) in Córdoba recently patented the technique, which increases the level of antioxidants present in seed oils thanks to the addition of olive oil phenols. The latter offset the production of harmful substances generated when seed oil is heated, and particularly when the same oil is recycled for frying.

Lipid peroxides — which increase the risk of atherosclerosis, cancer and other chronic degenerative diseases — are formed even when olive oil is heated, but the polyphenols protect against this process.

Carlos González, head of technology transfer at IMIBIC, said the breakthrough was important for healthier frying. He said the phenolic compounds hampered the chemical reactions of hydrolysis and oxidation. These reactions are a particular risk in deep-frying and not only a health risk but adversely affect the taste and nutritional value of food.

Studies have shown that the level of polar compounds in frying oils – which increases as the oil deteriorates – is a predictor of high blood pressure and that there is a link between consumption of polar compounds and the build-up of fatty deposits on artery walls.

González said the next step was to find companies interested in commercializing seed oils enhanced via the new process. At the earliest, such oils might be on the market in a year or so, he said.

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