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Corn fiber oil

Gold in Them Thar Hulls

By Doris Stanley
December 18, 1997

From a corn kernel hull, Agricultural Research Service scientists have discovered and applied for patents on two new products: “Amaizing oil,” a corn fiber oil that may lower cholesterol, and “Zeagen,” a valuable white corn fiber gum.

Commercializing these new products could also lower production costs for other corn-derived products like fuel ethanol. Replacing imported petroleum with home-grown fuel ethanol could benefit the national economy. This technology has the potential to create new jobs, provide new uses for agricultural byproducts, increase income for processors and growers, and develop healthy new foods for consumers.

The patent for the corn fiber oil will be jointly held by ARS and the University of Massachusetts, where feeding studies with hamsters indicated that the oil significantly lowered total serum cholesterol and LDL cholesterol--the kind that clogs the arteries.

Both the oil and the gum were discovered at the ARS Eastern Regional Research Center in Wyndmoor, Penn. ARS’ National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., collaborated on the oil research.

Corn fiber is a low-value byproduct of wet milling, the industrial process that produces starch, sweeteners, fuel grade ethanol and other products from corn. About 4 million tons of fiber--which could yield about 80,000 tons of corn fiber oil-- are produced by the corn processing industry each year. This waste byproduct is now sold for about 5 cents a pound as a low-cost ingredient in cattle rations.

Monsanto, St. Louis, Mo., has licensed the oil technology and plans to develop a variety of foods and food ingredients aimed at lowering cholesterol. The gum is extracted in the form of a smooth, white powder, bland in flavor and aroma, that could be used in foods as an emulsifier, a soluble dietary fiber or a thickener.

The National Starch and Chemical Co., Bridgewater, N.J., is working with ARS to further develop the gum, which also has potential industrial applications for use in adhesives and water-based paint thickeners.

A story about the corn fiber oil research appears in the December issue of Agricultural Research magazine. The story also is on the World Wide Web at:


Scientific contacts: Kevin B. Hicks, Robert A. Moreau, and Landis W. Doner, ARS Eastern Regional Research Center, Plant Science and Technology Unit, Wyndmoor, Penn., phone (215) 233-6580, fax 233-6406,,,; and Robert A. Norton, ARS, National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, Peoria, Ill., phone (309) 681-6251, fax 681-6693,