Have you heard of Z Trim?

by Brooke on November 22, 2011

Post image for Have you heard of Z Trim?

Last Wednesday, I attended a GastroIntellectual Property Law Symposium at Chicago-Kent College of Law.  It was great listening to Nick Kokonas, Jackie Leimer, Brian Chaiken, and Charles C. Valauskas dicuss how new innovations in food and technology may or may not need to be protected by patents and copyrights.  One food innovation that stood out that night was called Z Trim. Brian Chaiken is the Chief Legal Officer of Z Trim Holdings, Inc. and was a guest on the symposium panel that night.

Z Trim is a non-caloric functional food ingredient made from two different types of fiber called cellulose and hemicellulose.   The product contains an 80:20 cellulose-to-hemicellulose ratio.  These types of fiber just act as roughage in our bodies and are not absorbed.  Z Trim ingredients can be made from both corn and oats.

The Z Trim product claims to:

  • Replace fat
  • Reduce calories from added fats
  • Create the right textures
  • Stabilize emulsions
  • Controls moisture
  • Reduce water migration
  • Improve freeze-thaw
  • Enhance heat stability

The product’s website states that, “Z Trim ingredients make them a perfect choice for standard products as well as more healthful products that are reduced in fat and calories.”  On one hand, I get excited thinking about new products like this that could help a food maintain its texture, emulsion, moisture, etc., while still reducing overall fat grams and calories.

On the other hand, does this product really help Americans or just the food companies’ wallets? It would be great if Americans could enjoy the foods they love in moderation.  However, most Americans think when a product is lower in calories or fat they can just eat more of it.  So, does Z Trim just help re-enforce that bad habit?  Sure, this ingredient is helping food companies and restaurants sell more air and water, but will it help Americans feel full or just lead to more overeating?  It is also interesting that you would never see the word “Z Trim” on the food ingredient label it would read corn starch, corn fiber, oat starch, oat fiber etc…instead.

What do you think?  When it comes to food innovation, do you think these products are helpful or harmful to Americans?



{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

BrettFutureRD November 22, 2011 at 3:34 pm

IMO ALL functional foods outside of a hospital setting do more harm than good. It confuses the public, and gets them worrying about vitamins and ingredients instead of eating foods that are better for them. For example, people would rather eat a FiberOne bar to get their fiber than eating fruits and vegetables. The FiberOne bar has nothing going for it except fiber, but fruits and vegetables have a plethora of vitamins, antioxidants, bioflavinoids in addition to fiber that functional foods just can’t match. It is all just to fatten food manufacturer’s wallet, and does little to help consumers eat in a healthful way. In fact I would go as far as to say that it hurts the public. As far as Z-trim, I highly doubt there is anything special about their brand of fiber that deserves a patent, or poses any added health benefit over fiber found in whole foods.


Joe November 22, 2011 at 4:00 pm

“As far as Z-trim, I highly doubt there is anything special about their brand of fiber that deserves a patent, or poses any added health benefit over fiber found in whole foods.” BrettFutureRD.

While I am not agreeing nor disagreeing with your public perception concern, a couple of clicks on their website tell you what is unique about their product. An informed discussion is always more fruitful than one based on speculation.

How is Z Trim® different from other products in its category?

Z Trim’s patented process and composition makes it unique among cellulose ingredients. Originally developed at the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Northern Regional Research Center, significant additional processing advancements have been achieved, making the multifunctional benefits of Z Trim unique among cellulose ingredients.Aside from being non-caloric and taste-neutral, Z Trim has unparalleled water holding capacity. It can be rehydrated to any viscosity between a fraction of a percent to approximately 12% or more, depending on the capabilities of the equipment used. Z Trim multifunctional fibers can be used across a wide pH and temperature range.


RossRD November 22, 2011 at 4:15 pm

“Joe”: That quote may support the idea for a patent but it doesn’t clarify what makes this product more beneficial than whole foods. Fiber is virtually Calorie-free anyway…that’s the point. It doesn’t get digested. Most vegetables are very low in Calories because of their fiber and water content. What is your stake in that product?


Joe November 23, 2011 at 2:01 am

Ross: I don’t have a stake in the product but I did attend the Symposium that was mentioned. I don’t think there’s any question that a diet consisting entirely of whole foods is almost always better than one including a significant amount of processed foods. I am not a dietitian; however, I think it would be a hard sell to tell a client that she can only eat whole foods. Some people want to eat an Oreo (or whatever) once in a while. I think the debate that this article is intended to foster is “what’s better, a standard Oreo or one made with this product?” rather than “what’s better, an Oreo or a carrot?” I am interested to hear a dietitian’s take on this question, because the food science involved in answering this is beyond my knowledge.


Brooke November 23, 2011 at 4:45 am

I have enjoyed reading everyone’s responses! And yes the article was not about whole foods vs. processed foods. It was about if this type of non-caloric functional food ingredient would actually help Americans or make it easier for them to consume more? It is a good question…and I am not sure of the answer. I believe that if an “Oreo” containing Z Trim was eaten in moderation it could help Americans watch their waistline. However, most Americans don’t eat in moderation and are more likely to abuse the calories they saved by consuming more of the same “Oreo.”


RossRD November 25, 2011 at 2:31 am

I think our biggest battle at this time are the health halos the consumers get sucked into. The low-fat era of Snackwell’s is a perfect example. Before becoming a dietitian I misunderstood healthy oils. I agree with Brooke that not-so-healthful snack foods containing this product could be helpful when consumed in moderation. That’s the key…moderation. From what I’ve read and heard the research is inconsistent in showing whether such things are beneficial in the end. To clarify, do people consume the same amount or more if there are less Calories or fat grams per serving? It’s very difficult to say for sure.

I also wonder if the consumer would get the benefits of fiber from this ingredient beyond the lack of Calories. Does an “oreo” with ZTrim offer better satiety (or sense of fullness) than the standard product? I assume the “pipe-cleaning” aspect would be the same.

I wouldn’t tell a client they must consume 100% whole foods as that is unrealistic for many people. It would simply be a recommendation and, together, we could incorporate other preferred foods into their diet so that they can still meet their goals but not have to sacrifice everything enjoyable about food for them.


Taran December 23, 2011 at 3:58 am

That’s cleared my thoughts. Thanks for helping me understand!


Cameo November 22, 2011 at 9:23 pm

I find myself torn as well. Ideally, I’d like there not to be a need for such products. I think, as you mention, it simply reinforces bad habits. “I can eat till I puke!” But at the same point, it might not be so bad to grab a LaraBar and have it clock in at 100 calories vs. 220! Question is, where exactly are these fibers coming from (Non-GMO? Organic sources?) and how were they mined? Or whatever it’s called when you extract fiber…


Leave a Comment