The new soybeans, developed by plant breeders at Iowa State University, are said to contain twice the amount of oleic acid found in conventional soybean oil and only one per cent linolenic acid. They can be used in applications previously beyond the scope of conventional soybean oils.
The new oil, containing only one gram of saturated fat per tablespoon, is said to match the saturated fat content of canola oil as well as halving the saturated fat found in traditional soybeans.
Food industry tests last summer are said to confirm the application of the new soybean oil in many food products that require more stability than previous unhydrogenated soybean oils could deliver.
"There were 34 companies that tested the new mid-oleic/one per cent linolenic oil," said Professor Walter Fehr, lead research in the project. "The results were very positive. Twelve new varieties that produce this unique oil will be available for 2007."
The research is part of Iowa State's ongoing search for soybean oils that do not require hydogenation, a process that can prolong shelf-life but also leads to trans fatty acids.
Numerous studies in the literature show that trans fatty acids raise serum levels of LDL-cholesterol, reduce levels of HDL-cholesterol, can promote inflammation, can cause endothelial dysfunction, and influence other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
Soybean oil containing low levels of linolenic acid is already available commercially, most notably with Cargill's Vistive oil with a linolenic acid content of three percent, produced from Monsanto's Vistive soybean. The soybeans are reported to have enjoyed significant success on the back of an industry move to slash the trans fat content of foods.
By reducing the linolenic acid content the shelf life can be extended, said the researchers, and therefore eliminate the need for hydrogenated oils, so-called trans fats.
"Demand for the oil from the food industry has been high because of its excellent frying and flavour stability without the hydrogenation process that creates trans fats," said a statement from Iowa State.
Indeed, according to market researcher ACNeilson, US sales of products already labeled 'no trans fat' increased 12 percent to $6.4bn for the 52 weeks ended October 2, 2004, compared with the previous 52-week period.
"The new varieties are part of Iowa States ongoing program to continually improve the yield and other agronomic traits that are important to farmers," said Fehr. "These improved varieties, developed with support from the Iowa Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board, will increase the production of oils desirable for human health."
At the time of publication it is not known if the oils will be available in Europe