Submitted to: Oleic Acid: Dietary Sources, Functions, and Health Benefits
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: March 25, 2012
Publication Date: April 20, 2013
Citation: Barkley, N.L., Wang, M.L. 2013. Oleic Acid: Natural variation and potential enhancement in oilseed crops. In: Silva, L, editor. Oleic Acid: Dietary Sources, Functions, and Health Benefits. Hauppauge, NY:Nova Publishers. p.29-44. Technical Abstract: Oleic acid is a monounsaturated omega 9 fatty acid (MUFA, C18:1) which can be found in various plant lipids and animal fats. Unlike omega 3 (a-linolenic acid, C18:3) and omega 6 (linoleic acid, C18:2) fatty acids which are essential because they cannot be synthesized by humans and must be obtained from dietary sources, omega 9 is not an essential fatty acid and can be synthesized de novo. Even though oleic acid is not essential, it plays important biological roles in both plants and animals. Consumption of high oleic oils leads to a wide range of beneficial effects on promoting human health (from enhancing immune responses to reducing risks of cardiovascular diseases). Plant oil is one of the most important dietary sources of oleic acid. The level of oleic acid in plant oils is one of the key factors to determine its nutritional quality and total shelf life. Significant variability in the levels of oleic acid has been identified in different plant oils. Natural variation of oleic acid levels also exists in the oil extracted from the same species likely due to genotype, quantitative trait loci, or environmental effects. Plant breeders have been using traditional breeding methods to enhance the level of oleic acid in oilseed crops, but the level of enhancement is limited. Genetic modification (including chemical mutagenesis, physical radiation, random bombardment, target-specific modification) has played a big role in altering the total fatty acid composition and has been successfully used on oilseed crops (including soybean, canola, sunflower, cotton, and peanut) for enhancing oleic acid levels. Here in this chapter, we review (1) the known biological function of oleic acid, (2) the beneficial effects on human health, (3) dietary sources, and (4) natural variation and potential enhancement on the level of oleic acid in crop plants.