Several studies have looked into the suitability of soybean oils as the basis for trans fat substitutes since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation – which came into effect in 2006 – requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods. Evidence has mounted over the past decade showing that trans fats, such as partially hydrogenated oils, clog arteries and cause heart disease.
The new information particularly draws on research from Iowa State University which looked at interesterified soybean oil as a substitute for trans fats in commercial baked goods.
Professor of food science at Iowa State University Let Wilson said: “This research provides valuable information to food formulators about the performance and taste they can expect using these soy-based oils and shortenings in their own baked goods. We have every reason to believe the results we obtained are transferable from the lab to commercial operations.”
Interesterification involves moving fatty acids from one triglyceride molecule to another in order to change the melting point and increase shelf life – without the creation of trans fatty acids.
Trans fat in the form of partially hydrogenated oil is most common in baked and fried foods, in which it can count for up to 45 percent of total fat content. It is cheaper to produce than healthier oils like soybean or olive oil, and like interesterified oils, provides food manufacturers with greater processing stability and gives foods a longer shelf life. Therefore, margarines and commercially produced shortenings in the US have traditionally contained high levels of hydrogenated fats.
Other moves that have underlined the potential of soybean oil for trans fat replacement include research from Korea, which showed the trans-fat reduction prospect of a rice bran-soybean oil combination; a USDA grant to Asoyia to market its low linolenic soybean oils as an alternative to trans fats; and Canadian approval earlier this year for high oleic acid genetically modified soybeans for cultivation in 2010.
The Soyfoods Council brochure explains the baking applications of various soybean oils.