Page Banner

United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

New Soybeans Halve Saturated Fat, Keep Nutrition / November 26, 1996 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

New Soybeans Halve Saturated Fat, Keep Nutrition

By Jill Lee
November 26, 1996

RALEIGH, N.C., Nov. 26--Two new soybean breeding lines with less than half the saturated fat of regular soybeans are ready to lend their genes to commercial varieties--good news for health-conscious consumers concerned about soybean oil’s typical 16 percent saturated fat, a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist says.

“These new varieties, N94-2575 and C1945, each have a total saturated fat content of about 7 percent,” said geneticist Joseph W. Burton of USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. “Since soybean oil is now in more than 75 percent of the vegetable oils and fats on the market, this could help lots of consumers reduce the saturated fat in their diet.”

The Food and Drug Administration allows a product to be labeled “low in saturated fat” if it contains one gram of saturated fat or less per serving. To meet that standard, soybeans would have to be 7 percent saturated fat or less.

Burton worked with James R. Wilcox at the ARS Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit in West Lafayette, Ind., to breed soybean plants specifically to reduce the beans’ levels of a saturated fat called palmitic acid. Research has shown palmitic acid and other saturated fats can raise LDL cholesterol levels in the blood, contributing to heart disease. National dietary guidelines recommend limiting daily consumption of saturated fats to no more than 8 to 10 percent of total calories.

In these new varieties the palmitic acid is replaced with oleic acid, which has some health benefits. In addition, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which can actually lower cholesterol levels, are at 7 and 60 percent respectively-- essentially the same as regular soybeans.

The U.S. produces 15 billion pounds of soybean oil annually, with a market value of about $4 billion. Soybeans are high in protein and other nutrients. They also have isoflavones, which studies suggest have cancer-preventing properties.

“There’s a lot of good nutrition in soybeans. Their unsaturated fatty acids are needed to help our cells stay healthy. But one thing we, and our cells, don’t need is more saturated fat,” said biochemist Norberta W. Schoene with the ARS Human Nutrition Research Center in Beltsville, Md.

Plant breeders can obtain packets of 100 seeds of N94-2575 from Burton in Raleigh, N.C. Seeds of C1943 are available from Wilcox at the West Lafayette, Ind., laboratory. Burton said he will breed a commercial line of low-fat soybeans which should be ready for growers in about three years.

“N94-2575 is late-maturing and suited for southeastern breeders, while C1943 matures a little earlier to meet the needs of Midwestern breeders,” said Wilcox. “Both have excellent seed quality. Their yields are a little lower than some commercial varieties, but they could work well for breeders who want to develop a higher-yielding, low-fat soybean lines.“

Scientific contact: Joseph W. Burton, Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research, Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Raleigh, N.C. 27695-7620, phone (919) 515- 2734, or James R. Wilcox, Crop Production and Pest Control Research, ARS-USDA, West Lafayette, Ind. 47907, phone (317) 494-8074.

Last Modified: 4/18/2014
Footer Content Back to Top of Page