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Updated 27 October 2015

New soybean oil cuts trans fats

By increasing the oleic acid content in soybeans but keeping linolenic levels low, researchers may have discovered a way to lower the level of artery-clogging trans fats in food products in products such as cereals and energy bars.

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This will be beneficial to manufacturers marketing their products from a health basis as studies have shown that trans fats increase LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol and lower HDL ‘good’ cholesterol.

According to research, high levels of trans fats are suspected of contributing to obesity and heart disease as LDL cholesterol build-up in the body can lead to clogging in the arteries linked to the heart and brain, causing atherosclerosis.

Low levels of linolenic acid in soybeans eliminates or greatly reduces the need for partial hydrogenation – a process which forms trans fats in the oil. However, in the past these beans have been too unstable to be suitable for use in the majority of manufacturing processes.

What the researchers found

The team at Iowa State University found that, by adding just 1% linolenic acid to a soybean, they were able to increase its oleic acid content from 28% to 50%, thereby rendering it more stable.

Non-hydrogenated, low-linolenic oil containing no trans fats could then be derived from the test soybean and would be suitable for use in a greater number of areas such as baked foods.

The potential for a new trans fat-reducing ingredient is particularly significant in the light of increasing pressure from campaigners calling for Europe to follow the US and Danish models whereby government-regulated maximum levels are set for trans fats in the food industry.

Compulsory product labels

Lobby groups also want to see compulsory product labels signalling the inclusion of the harmful fats.

Oliver Tickell, founder of the online organisation, the UK Campaign Against Trans Fats In Food, told bakeryandsnacks.com: “The achievement of just 1% linolenic acid is impressive as is the high level of oleic acid. I can imagine the oil from this soybean making big inroads in the fast food trade and other parts of the industry."

Source: Decision News Media

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