Cricket And Chemistry Combine To Provide New Understanding Of How Fats Work

June 16, 1997

Anyone who dares to suggest that cricket stumps are just three equal sized lengths of wood would be instantly set upon by cricket fans keen to point out the subtle differences between how the game approaches the leg stump and off stump (the two outside stumps). Chemists have long known that the chemical shape of fats bears a striking resemblance to a set of cricket stumps and now researchers at the University of Warwick have found new ways of distinguishing the subtle difference between the "leg stump" and "off stump" of fats that will provide us with a whole new understanding of fats.

The chemical lay out of fats is in the shape of three long chains connected together at the top of those chains by a short chain akin to the bales on a set of cricket stumps. Chemical companies have long been aware that the application of certain enzymes to fats can change, remove or replace one or more of the three long cricket stump like chains of a fat, and thus influence the quality and performance of that fat. These effects however have been found by long and expensive trial and error processes and industrial chemists are still unsure how or why they work.

Dr Oliver Howarth and Professor David Crout at the University of Warwick's Department of Chemistry have now devised a new method which for the first time allows chemists to distinguish between to the "leg stump "and "off stump" chains in a particular fat and thus allow industrial chemists to both monitor and model the effect of particular enzymes on various fats.

The research team is using a novel Nuclear Magnetic Resonance approach to tag or label the point at which one of the chains or stumps connects with the "bails" of the fat. This allows them to monitor the difference in effect of enzymes on the two different stumps.

The research is already in use with industrial chemists working with fats. Dr Howarth intends to take the research further to examine how it can assist with the quality control processes of Italian producers of extra virgin olive oil.

University of Warwick

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