Frank findings about fat and flavor

December 20, 1999

Amount of Fat in Hot Dogs Makes a Difference in Release of Flavor Compounds

Science has finally gone to the dogs ... hot dogs, that is. Researchers in Northern Ireland have just released a study explaining why reduced-fat frankfurters might taste slightly different than regular franks.

Writing in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers say that aroma compounds, which affect flavor, appear to be released more slowly and last longer in full-fat frankfurters than in the lower fat variety. The peer-reviewed journal is published by the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society. The article was initially published on the journal's web site on Nov. 18.

In full-fat meat products, the lipid (fat) appears to act as a "reservoir of flavor, which can be released slowly during eating," says Linda Farmer, Ph.D., lead author of the study. Farmer is with the Department of Food Science at The Queen's University of Belfast.

The amount of flavor (odor) compounds in lower fat meat products may be the same as those in full-fat products, but because they contain less lipid, the flavor reservoir is much smaller, according to Farmer. The end result is faster release of many of the flavor compounds. "In practice, this means that the spicy, peppery flavors are strong to start with, but decrease quite rapidly thereafter," says Farmer.

A sophisticated analytical technique, known as gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, was combined with another sensitive detector, the human nose, to measure and evaluate approximately 70 flavor/odor compounds in franks with varying levels of fat. Some odors were much stronger in the low fat varieties.

Whether it is possible to slow the release of flavor/odor compounds in lower fat hot dogs, thereby improving their taste, is the subject of a follow-up study by the Queen's University researchers. They expected to announce their results in the next few months.
(The on-line version of the research paper cited below is available on the American Chemical Society's ASAP (As Soon As Publishable) web site. Journalists desiring full access to papers at the ASAP site must submit their requests in writing to in the ACS Department of News & Information.)

A nonprofit organization with a membership of nearly 159,000 chemists and chemical engineers, the American Chemical Society publishes scientific journals and databases, convenes major research conferences, and provides educational, science policy and career programs in chemistry. Its main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio. (

American Chemical Society

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