A Safer Bean

'Healthy' soybeans can replace oils with unsafe trans fats



The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Nov. 7 that they were ruling trans fats as unsafe in food. This determination could ultimately lead to a ban of trans fats in baked goods and many other foods, such as icings and fried foods. Trans fats have been linked to increased risks for heart attacks and 9837658685_91af5eb654_bstrokes. Researchers at the University of Missouri have been working for years to create healthy alternatives to trans fats and say they have found a way to create soybean oil that has no trans fats.

Grover Shannon.

Grover Shannon.

Currently, in order to preserve soybean oil for cooking, manufacturers use a process called hydrogenation, which is what creates the trans fats. Oils with high levels of oleic acid, like olive oil, are able to be preserved for much longer without having to add trans fats. Grover Shannon, a professor of plant sciences in the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, along with Kristin Bilyeu, an MU plant sciences adjunct assistant professor and USDA molecular biologist, has found a naturally occurring gene in soybeans that, when combined with another natural gene, increases the amount of oleic acid in the oil from 20 percent to 80 percent.

“By raising the levels of oleic acid in soybean oil, we can effectively create a healthy alternative to foods with trans fats,” Shannon said. “We are working with researchers around the country to begin growing these healthier soybeans and get the soybean oil into the market as soon as we can.”

Kristin Bilyeu.

Kristin Bilyeu.

The MU researchers are using classical plant breeding techniques to "endow" their soy lines with these two genes. This approach could make these soybeans more marketable to countries that resist buying genetically-modified foods. More than $16 billion of soybeans were exported from the U.S. in 2009.

Shannon, who is also associate director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology based at Mizzou, hopes the first crops of these healthier soybeans will be available in 2014, with plans to expand production in the next few years. Currently, he and Bilyeu are working on increasing the crop yields of these healthier soybeans so that farmers are able and willing to grow them.

Comments

  1. Don Sandwell says:

    This should be the kind of news that gets picked up and promoted worldwide! I am so proud of the fact that CAFNR is supporting this research into improving world nutrition. It is a shame that resistance to GMOs may make this a longer process but it is certainly a worthwhile one. Crop yield may be the defining characteristic of the success of this commercially but the nutritional advantages already make this an amazing advance in Plant Science. You Go, you Plant Science Tigers, (We can actually root for more than just sports!)

  2. Toni Milstead says:

    I am so impressed by the research that is going on at MIZZOU. Keep up the great work!

  3. Dr. Karen Bangert says:

    How incredibly exciting to have a heart safe soybean. I'm hopeful that these same plant scientists can improve the yield and market this bean all over the world. Way to go MIZZOU!

  4. Ray Dobert, (Ph.D., '90) says:

    Applaud the work described here, but found the headline in the email teaser very misleading. It read "MU researchers have found a way to create soybean oil without trans fats, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently ruled as unsafe in food." A bit of fact finding would lead one to find that "soybean oil" (the kind you buy in the store as liquid vegetable oil) does not contain ANY trans-fats. However when soybean oil is hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated this process results in the formation of trans-fats. Hydrogenated soy oil is used in many frying and baking applications. And luckily for soybean producers, there are many options coming to the market for high oleic soybean oils which work great in frying and baking applications without being hydrogenated and thus do not contain trans fats. And also, FDA has merely PROPOSED to find that hydrogenated oils should not longer be considered to generally be safe. So keep up the good work MU plant scientists, and try to get your communication colleagues to do a better job!!

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