Researchers breed non-GM soybeans for trans-free oil

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Oleic acid Nutrition Trans fat Food and drug administration

Researchers have created a new form of soybean oil using traditional plant breeding that contains significantly elevated levels of oleic acid for trans and saturated fat replacement.

Evidence has mounted over the past decade showing that artificial trans fats clog arteries and cause heart disease. On the back of growing concern, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a regulation that was implemented in 2006 requiring manufacturers to list trans fatty acids on the nutrition panel of foods, providing further motivation for manufacturers to cut trans fats from their products.

Other research groups have used transgenic methods to increase soybean oil’s oleic acid levels, but the team of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service and university researchers created two mutant alleles using conventional breeding methods, through which they managed to produce soybean oil with more than 80 percent oleic acid. Normally, soybean oil contains just 20 percent of the monounsaturated fat.

“Previous conventional plant breeding research to raise the oleic acid level to just 50-60 percent of the oil was hindered by the genetic complexity and environmental instability of the trait,”​ the researchers wrote.

In 2008, soybean oil accounted for about 70 percent of all edible oils and fats consumed in the United States.

“Consumption of oils with high oleic acid content is desirable because this monounsaturated fatty acid not only improves shelf life but also reduces the need for hydrogenation, a process adding to the cost of the oil and generating unwanted trans-fat that has been linked to many health problems in humans,” ​they wrote.

Trans fat is considered to be the most harmful form of fat because it raises levels of LDL (low-density lipoprotein, or so-called ‘bad’) cholesterol, while lowering levels of HDL (high-density lipoprotein, or ‘good’) cholesterol.

The researchers concluded: “Increasing the oleic acid content in soybean seed oil is one of the most effective and efficient ways to enhance the nutritional value and practical utilization of soybean oil.”

Source: BMC Plant Biology

2010, 10:195 doi:10.1186/1471-2229-10-195

“Mutant alleles of FAD2-1A and FAD2-1B combine to produce soybeans with the high oleic acid seed oil trait”

Authors: Anh-Tung Pham, Jeong-Dong Lee, J. Grover Shannon, Kristin D Bilyeu.

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