Soybeans Bred for “Heart Healthier” Oil

October 18, 2010

Soybeans are being bred for higher levels of oleic acid by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and scientists from the University of Missouri and South Korea’s Kyungpook University.

Soybeans are being bred for higher levels of oleic acid by USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and scientists from the University of Missouri and South Korea’s Kyungpook University.

The new soybeans contain more than 80% oleic acid, reports Kristin Bilyeu, the University of Missouri molecular biologist who is part of the research group working on the project. By contrast, she says, soy oil generally contains only 20% oleic acid-as well as 13% palmitic acid, 4% stearic acid, 55% linoleic acid, and 8% linolenic acid.

The higher level of oleic acid poses health benefits, says Jan Suszkiw, ARS’s public affairs specialist who reported on the project. “Increasing soy oil’s level of the monounsaturated fat can avoid resorting to hydrogenation,” Suszkiw wrote. Hydrogenation, a process that is often used to convert liquid oils into a solid product such as margarine, as well as to improve shelf life and product quality, also produces trans-fats that can trigger production of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or “bad” cholesterol, says Suszkiw.

Suszkiw says that the new soybeans were produced using “classical” plant breeding, instead of using methods such as gene silencing that others have employed to increase oleic-acid levels in soybeans.

 

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