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Our health and well-being depend on the quality and quantity of what we eat. Improving the nutritional status of popular foodstuffs is not always an easy task, but a new project, OPTIM'OILS, aims to do just that. OPTIM'OILS intends to improve the lipidic micronutrient content of edible vegetable oils and thus reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Targeted seeds include sunflower, rapeseed and soybean. Project partners envisage this to be a multistep process. Based on knowledge gained during the initial stages of the research, improvements will be implemented at the processing and refining stages in order to optimise the micronutrient content.

The use of oleaginous seeds and vegetable oils in European food products is extremely popular in many different product groups. Changing the lipidic micronutrient content of these foods could have a significant positive impact on consumer wellbeing, which is the overall objective of OPTIM'OILS.


Vegetable oils can act as a main source for a number of key micronutrients. Even though these substances are proving beneficial against various diseases, current processing methods often result in their breakdown, reducing the natural nutritional value of these oils. The EC, through the OPTIM'OILS project, aims not only to enhance our knowledge of these micronutrients and how they can benefit human health, but also to develop new methodologies for promoting their preservation during the extraction, and refining stages of seed processing.

The project focuses on four micronutrients: these include phospholipids, phytosterols, coenzyme Q10 and phenolic compounds. Coenzyme Q10 has been shown to exhibit cell-protective properties and is a known antioxidant, potentially of benefit in the treatment of coronary heart disease. Phenolic compounds can also minimise oxidative stress, but much remains to be learnt about the role of phospholipids and glycolipids, as well as other micronutrients of potential benefit that are encountered in edible oils.


A total of 14 project partners from European and non-European countries have come together to work towards common objectives. With expertise ranging from agricultural research to multinational food distribution, members are in an excellent position to shed light on the micronutrient profile of edible oils, and the ways of protecting the micronutrient pool of oleaginous seeds during the extraction and refining processes. The consortium includes expert knowledge on environmental practices and industrial effluent treatment, which will be applied to the traditional oils industry with the aim of minimising by-products and improving valorisation and waste treatment.

The partners will finally focus on the demonstration of the novel 'healthy oils' that will emerge from the OPTIM'OILS project. The end products will be validated on their quality and cost efficiency levels, and their ability to bring overall added value in terms of profits and health benefits.

List of Partners

  • Institut des Corps Gras (France)
  • The Swedish Institute for Food and Technology (Sweden)
  • Centre de recherche et d'expérimentation sur les oléagineux et les protéagineux (France)
  • Asociación de Investigación de la Industria Agroalimentaria (Spain)
  • Istituto Superiore di Sanità- Section of Food Science, Nutrition and Health (Italy)
  • Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Industries Agricoles et Alimentaires (France)
  • Instituto de Biologia Experimental e Tecnológica (Portugal)
  • Centre de Recherche en Nutrition Humaine (France)
  • Faculté Universitaire des Sciences Agronomiques de Gembloux (Belgium)
  • Unilever Nederland Holdings BV (The Netherlands)
  • LESIEUR (France)
  • Lesieur Cristal (Morocco)
  • Ets ABDELMOULA (Tunisia)
  • Association de Coordination Technique pour l'Industrie Agro Alimentaire (France)
Full title:
Valorisation of healthy lipidic micro-nutrients by optimising food processing of edible oils and fats
Contract n°:
Project co-ordinator:
Anne Rossignol-Castera, Institut des Corps Gras, France,
EC Scientific Officer:
Jürgen Lucas,
EU contribution:
€ 1.9M
Specific Targeted Research Project

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Last update: 06 December 2007 | Top