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Healthful Soybean Oil From the Southeast to Be Evaluated

By Judy McBride
July 18, 2001

A new soybean bred by Agricultural Research Service scientists for the Southeast fulfills two of the food industry’s wishes for heart-healthy soy oil.

Oil from the new soybean has half the saturated fat of traditional varieties--specifically, the undesirable palmitic acid. And its portion of the highly unstable polyunsaturated fat, linolenic acid, is at least 40 percent lower. That should reduce or eliminate the need for hydrogenation in many frying and food-processing applications.

Hydrogenation generates most of the trans fats in the food supply, and trans fats appear to increase risk of cardiovascular disease much the same as saturated fats do. So the food industry wants to avoid hydrogenation wherever possible.

The new soybean is named Satelite--pronounced “Sat-elite” because it is “elite” for saturated fat content, according to Richard F. Wilson. He directs soybean research at ARS’ Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research Unit in Raleigh, N.C.

Satelite is the first low-linolenic-, low-palmitic-acid variety released for the Southeast, according to ARS agronomist Joseph W. Burton, who developed the variety by traditional breeding. Its oil also has more of the desirable monounsaturated fat, oleic acid, than traditional varieties--about 40 percent more. But levels still don’t meet the industry target of 50 percent of total fat.

Through North Carolina Foundation Seed Producers, ARS is releasing a limited amount of Satelite seed this year to North Carolina State University and selected local farmers, who will produce around 5,000 bushels of beans, enough for oil processors and food companies to test. The United Soybean Board funded part of Satelite’s development and is providing $77,000 toward the seed increase.

If the oil performs well in pilot tests, it could help food manufacturers reduce trans fats in their products. Food labels currently don’t include trans fats. But proposed Food and Drug Administration rules would require that manufacturers add the amount of trans fat in a serving--if it exceeds 0.5 gram--to the amount of saturated fat stated on the Nutrition Facts panel. The amount of saturated fat and its percentage of the “daily value” would reflect the sum of the two.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.