What is Ascorbyl Palmitate?
Ascorbyl palmitate is an ester of ascorbic acid (vitamin C). It is an antioxidant used in fat-based systems like frosting and fillings. It is also used as a source of vitamin C enrichment in foods.
Ascorbyl palmitate is produced by esterification of ascorbic acid with palmitic acid, through either chemical or enzymatic catalysis.
Ascorbyl palmitate has an ascorbic acid head and a palmitic acid tail. It can act as a surfactant, and can be used to replace shortening in bread. Although it has the following functions when used in breadmaking,2 it is too expensive to be used as a surfactant in this process:
- Increases dough’s water absorption by 4%
- Strengthens dough to ease machine handling
- Has an anti-firming effect; can soften bread crumb
- Increases bread volume
- Reverses the detrimental effects of foreign proteins like defatted soy flour
Ascorbyl palmitate is broken down to ascorbic acid and palmitic acid in the human body. It has the same nutritional effect as ascorbic acid, but is more stable. When used in bread, around 81% of ascorbyl palmitate can be recovered after baking, whereas almost no ascorbic acid is left.2 Ascorbyl palmitate is a good form of vitamin C for enriching foods.
Ascorbyl palmitate is an oxygen scavenger and is soluble in fat. This is the main reason for its use in the baking industry. It can retard autoxidation during oil storage, but has limited effect in protecting oil from photooxidation. Around 200 ppm ascorbyl palmitate is used to protect canola oils from autoxidation.3 It is the most effective antioxidant for oil storage – better than butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).3
Ascorbyl palmitate must be dispersed in oil or fat before it is mixed with other dry ingredients in dough making. For example, ascorbyl palmitate can be premixed with monoglycerides at the ratio of 9:1. Ascorbyl palmitate will not be dispersed well if it is mixed with other dry ingredients directly, due to its hydrophobicity.
The recommended level of ascorbyl palmitate is 0.38% based on flour weight. When 0.38% ascorbyl palmitate is used, no shortening is needed in dough. The optimum absorption level is 68% when 0.38% ascorbyl palmitate is applied in dough-making. Ascorbyl palmitate has a dough-strengthening effect; therefore, higher levels should be avoided because they will produce too strong a dough that cannot expand properly.
Ascorbyl palmitate functions similarly to SSL in breadmaking.2 SSL is easier to incorporate into dough, is cheaper and gives finer grain. Ascorbyl palmitate provides a source of vitamin C in bread.
Ascorbyl palmitate can be added to iron-enriched baked goods to delay the oxidation caused by heme iron and to extend bread’s shelf life.4
Ascorbyl palmitate is regulated GRAS by the FDA in article 21CFR182.3149 in the Code of Federal Regulations.5 Its allowable use in margarine is not more than 0.02% by weight of the finished food, as regulated by the FDA in article 21CFR166.110 in the Code of Federal Regulations.6
- Santibáñez, L., et al. “Synthesis of Ascorbyl Palmitate with Immobilized Lipase from Pseudomonas Stutzeri.” Journal of the American Oil Chemists Society, vol. 91, no. 3, 2013, pp. 405–410, doi:10.1007/s11746-013-2378-x.
- Koch, R.B. “Baking performance of ascorbyl-6-palmitate in pup loaves.” Master’s thesis, Kansas State University, 1981.
- McMullen, L.M, et al. “Ascorbyl Palmitate Efficacy in Enhancing the Accelerated Storage Stability of Canola Oil.” Journal of Food Science, vol. 56, no. 6, 1991, pp. 1651–1654, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.1991.tb08663.x.
- Alemán, M., et al. “The Effect of Citric Acid and Ascorbyl Palmitate in Palm Oil Enriched with Heme Iron: A Model for Iron Fortification in Bakery Products.” European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology, vol. 116, no. 3, 2014, pp. 300–310, doi:10.1002/ejlt.201300007.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “21CFR182.3149 – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” Accessdata.fda.gov, 14 Aug. 2017, www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfCFR/CFRSearch.cfm?fr=182.3149.
- U.S. Food & Drug Administration. “21CFR166.110 – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21.” Accessdata.fda.gov, 14 Aug. 2017, www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/cdrh/cfdocs/cfcfr/CFRSearch.cfm?FR=166.110.