Euro Fed Lipid

Euro Fed Lipid Divisions: Plant Lipids

Plant lipids constitute an important group of biomolecules, since are the major building blocks in cell membranes and serve as energy reserve of the cell. Because of these properties they are of considerable interest in economic sectors such as agriculture, food, health and the cosmetics industry. In addition, the sector of renewable energies is showing increasing interest in the field of plant lipids.
The lipids of plants constitute the majority of the reserves of seeds from field crops like: soya, rape, sunflower, palm tree, and olive tree. Annual world production attains 120 million tons and represents a sales turnover of 8 billion euro. In 2005, these crops represented approximately 7 million cultivated hectares in the EEC (data from FranceAgriMer, Céréales/Numéro 2 / décembre 2009). To that we can add the surface occupied by olive tree fields in the Mediterranean region, whose production reaches 1.8 million tons.
The oils extracted from these seeds have different properties according to their composition in lipids and fatty acids. Their uses will be varied according to their properties. They are destined to both food and non-food uses. The improvement of their properties and their diversity are the object of research undertaken within our working group and by companies of international size - together it is a broad ongoing sector covering from the improvement of seeds to the production of healthy foods and sustainable building blocks for the chemical industry.
Concerning the food uses of vegetable oils, two aspects are important: on the one hand, productivity improvements to face the increasing demands of a world population in continuous growth and the needs of emerging countries and, on the other hand, the improvement of food value in order to decrease the cardiovascular and obesity problems encountered in Western countries. To reach the first of these objectives, it is necessary to improve output by agronomic or biotechnological methods. The second objective requires the modification of the properties of vegetable oils or the anticipated production of new oleaginous plants.
The presence of particular fatty acids like omega 3 and omega 6 and the presence of vegetable sterols in the oils of plants are at the base of many functional foods, as these lipids have shown to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular diseases, and decreasing the incorporation of cholesterol in the membranes of arteries.
Lipids are also highly valued by cosmetics industry for their free anti-radicals properties (carotenes, flavanoïdes), and vegetable oils are used ever more extensively as the base of solar creams and lotions. In the same way, the vegetable ceramides and inositols are the active molecules of new anti-wrinkle creams. The field of application of vegetable lipids in the beauty care industry is only at its beginnings and its development is primarily limited by the current state of knowledge.
Our society is highly dependent on raw fossil materials whose reserves are not inexhaustible and whose prices are in continual rise. To mitigate the impact of this situation, it has become a priority to find new sources of alternative and renewable energy. Oils from oleaginous field crops like sunflower and rape present properties close to those of fossil oils and it is therefore reasonably probable that alternative raw materials may be produced from vegetable oils. Diester is the first example, and the production of other materials like biolubricants, solvents, and inks is completely attainable.
Vegetable oils, and more generally the lipids of the plants, are of undeniable economic and social importance. New industrial investments linked in particular to the improvement of our society’s health and to alternative energy solutions imply the prior development of knowledge of the metabolism of plant lipids..
Our working group organizes the plant lipid session at the annual Euro Fed Lipid meeting and the biannual European Meeting on Plant Lipids to exchange and discuss new developments in our discipline.


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