The food industry tests will determine if the oil can go where no unhydrogenated soybean oil has gone before--into food products (like cereal and energy bars, powdered cheese sauces and non-dairy creamers) that require more stability than previous unhydrogenated soybean oils could deliver.
This is the latest step in the research at Iowa State University to produce soybean oils that do not require hydrogenation, a chemical process that increases shelf life but produces trans fats. Trans fats have been linked to increased cholesterol in the bloodstream and an increased risk of heart disease. On January 1, 2006, the Food and Drug Administration began requiring food manufacturers to show the amount of trans fats on nutrition facts labels.
The new oil is the product of research conducted in the university's agronomy department by a soybean breeding team led by Walter Fehr, Charles F. Curtiss Distinguished Professor in Agriculture.
Fehr obtained from scientists at Saga University in Japan a soybean line with about 50 percent oleic acid, compared with about 28 percent in conventional soybeans. The Japanese soybean, developed by conventional breeding, could not be grown in Iowa because it did not mature before frost and its linolenic acid content was too high to avoid hydrogenation. The Iowa State research team wanted to transfer by conventional breeding the genes controlling the elevated oleic acid trait into their varieties with 1 percent linolenic acid that are grown commercially in the Midwest.
"Our 1 percent linolenic acid oil does not require hydrogenation and has been adopted by the food industry in a range of products," Fehr explained. "We wanted to find out if it wo