PolyU researchers develop novel fungus-based fat replacer AkkMore™ to prevent obesity and enhance gut health; collaborates with Hotel ICON to launch reduced-fat desserts to promote environmental innovation in food industry

HONG KONG, May 22, 2024 /PRNewswire/ — In recent years, scientists have been actively exploring the potential of future foods, including using boundless microorganisms as substitutes for limited animal and plant resources. Among these microorganisms, the replacer of animal-derived fats is a research topic currently of very great interest. A research team from the Research Institute for Future Food (RiFood) and the Department of Food Science and Nutrition (FSN) of The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) has successfully developed AkkMore™, a novel fungus-based fat replacer which is effective in preventing obesity and metabolic diseases, enhancing gut health, modulating immune response and relieving anxiety. This replacer not only helps lower the calorific content of food, but also extends the shelf life of cream products. In the long term, it can reduce dairy consumption and food waste, providing innovative ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) solutions in the food industry.

A PolyU research team led by Dr Gail CHANG, Core Member of RiFood and Research Assistant Professor of FSN together with Dr Amber CHIOU, Associate Director and Associate Professor of RiFood, and Associate Head of FSN has extracted the functional component of AkkMore™ from natural fungus to develop the replacer and has conducted three phases of animal experiments.

The study has found that mice which had been administered the AkkMore™ formula had a healthier gut microbiota with higher density of Akkermansia, lower Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio, lighter adipose tissue and suppressed neuroinflammation when compared to the control group. This indicates the effectiveness of the formula in managing weight, enhancing gut health, modulating immune and metabolic diseases and relieving anxiety. This research won a Silver Medal at the 2022 International Exhibition of Inventions Geneva and its application for health benefits has entered patent substantive examination stage.

Making use of the thickening, emulsifying and stabilising properties of AkkMore™, the team has developed Cream Mate, an AkkMore™-based cream substitute. Cream Mate can be used in conjunction with traditional cream to reduce the amount of cream used in dessert. Not only does it decrease the fat and calorific content of food while maintaining the quality of taste and texture, but it also significantly extends the shelf life of cream-based products. In the long run, this could lead to reduced consumption of dairy products and food waste, reducing carbon emissions and profitability of production.

Dr Chang stated, “This collaboration is testament to the successful translation of a research outcome. Moving forward, we will further explore the application of AkkMore™ formula in innovative health foods and put greater efforts into identification of mushroom strains with better functions and standardisation of the cultivation process.”

PolyU is committed to the translation of research outcomes. Dr Chang was admitted to the PolyU GBA Startup Postdoc Programme in 2019 and has been granted support from the PolyU Micro Fund. As well as being selected for the Incu-Tech Programme of the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation, Dr Chang has received a number of awards in entrepreneurial competitions. In 2020, she partnered with Dr Amber Chiou and Dr Jimmy JIN, Assistant Dean and Associate Professor of the Faculty of Business to establish Bo InnoHealth Biotechnology Company Limited, a start-up focusing on research into the growth mechanism of fungus and has received generous support from the PolyU Tech Launchpad Fund and multiple angel funds.

Following the launch of supplement containing the AkkMore™ formula, the research team has collaborated with GREEN of Hotel ICON, the PolyU teaching and research hotel, whereby the hotel restaurant infuses Cream Mate in reduced-fat soft serve and desserts, and launch its new limited time “ForestFit Afternoon Tea With Japanese Fruit And Akkmore™”. Hotel ICON has commissioned a laboratory to test the nutritional components of soft serve in two formulae. The test showed that the total fat content of soft serve with AkkMore™ Cream Mate was less than 3% and was reduced by more than 80% when comparing with regular soft serve, and the total energy was also reduced by more than half. For more details, please visit the Hotel ICON website: https://www.hotel-icon.com/offers/akkmore-japanesefruits-afternoon-tea

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