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Research Producing Healthier Soybeans

Research Producing Healthier Soybeans
New line of germplasm increases oleic acid levels.

Products made from soy oil stand to benefit from two new germplasm lines that produce high levels of oleic acid, according to the Department of Agriculture and university scientists. Molecular biologist Kristin Bilyeu with USDA's Agricultural Research service in Columbia, Missouri, says increasing soy oil's level of the monounsaturated fat can avoid resorting to hydrogenation. Besides converting liquid oil into a solid, like margarine, hydrogenation helps to improve shelf life and product quality. But it also generates trans-fats, which alter the body's blood cholesterol levels, producing more of the "bad" LDL cholesterol than the "good" HDL cholesterol.

In 2008, soy oil accounted for 70% of all edible oils and fats consumed in America, underscoring the importance of reducing trans-fats in cooking, baking and deep-frying applications. In a new issue of BMC Plant Biology, Bilyeu and her colleagues report their identification and use of a mutant pair of alleles, or gene copies, to bolster soy's oleic-acid production. The new beans increase the present level of oleic acid from 20% to 80%.

Field trials in Missouri and Costa Rica have indicated the soy lines' oleic-acid production can stay fairly constant across diverse growing conditions. Additional tests are planned.

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