Fat Thursday is the sweetest holiday of the year. On this occasion, we eagerly eat donuts and angel wings, which are traditionally deep-fried. Dr. Małgorzata Starowicz from the Institute’s Department of Chemistry and Biodynamics of Food talks about the phenomena that accompany the preparation of Poles’ favorite sweets, as well as what research related to them is conducted at our Institute.

The cascade of chemical reactions is responsible for the pleasant aroma, taste and brown color of donuts and angel wings. These reactions occur between the sugars and proteins in foods that are subjected to high temperatures. They own their name to their discoverer, French chemist Louis Camille Maillard. We can say that Maillard reactions have two „faces”. On the one hand, they form compounds that shape the taste, smell and color of such food products as bread, coffee, fried meat, beer or honey. In addition, melanoidins formed during the Maillard reaction have antioxidant properties. These naturally brown dyes, found, for example, in the crust of bread, have the ability to capture and neutralize free radicals, and thus can prevent civilization diseases.

On the other hand, the Maillard reaction may produce compounds such as acrylamide, which has been descrobed mutagenic and cancerous. Although the standards for the content of acrylamide in food have not yet been defined, scientists and food producers monitor its content in market products and conduct a number of studies on the improvement of technological processes, selection of raw materials used, or the use of natural food additives. All this to keep the level of acrylamide low in heat-treated products. We currently consume the most of it in chips and fries. The great interest in the topic of acrylamide has led scientists and entrepreneurs to join forces under the European Cooperation in Science and Technology (COST) programme and together explore the topic of reducing the level of acrylamide in cereal products.

Research conducted at the Department of Chemistry and Biodynamics of Food at the Institute of Animal Reproduction and Food Research PAS has shown that the formation of these, both beneficial and unfavorable, compounds can be changed already at the stage of the technological process. This is possible by choosing the right ingredients, heating temperature and time, adjusting the pH level or water content. The challenge faced by scientists is primarily the development of appropriate recipes and setting the parameters of technological processes in order to balance and lead to increased formation of beneficial compounds, while reducing the amount of unfavorable ones. Our team’s research to date has shown that polyphenolic compounds have a high potential to inhibit the formation of acrylamide. The addition of polyphenols in the form of spices or herbs can effectively reduce the content of acrylamide in confectionery products while increasing the taste and aroma. On the other hand, it is more recommended to bake for a longer time at a lower temperature than to bake for a short time at a high temperature. The tests were carried out for breads baked from various flours (spelt, wheat and rye).


Data publikacji: 16.02.2023