Soybeans Bred For Health Benefits

Compiled By John Teresko Two new varieties of soybeans will offer food processors a public-health choice never before available, says Steve St. Martin, a research agronomist at Ohio State University's Agricultural Research and Development Center, Columbus, Ohio. He explains that the benefits come from reducing one of the five fatty acids present in soybean oil. In the new varieties, the level of linolenic acid is roughly half that of most soybeans -- 3.5% to 4.5% instead of the 7% to 10% usually present. St. Martin says food scientists advocate the reduction to increase flavor stability and to lessen the need for hydrogenation. "Linolenic acid is prone to oxidizing during storage and cooking, which leads to rancidity. Also for some uses soybean oil must be hydrogenated in order to make it solid at room temperature. Hydrogenation of oil that contains linolenic acid leads to the development of trans fatty acids -- substances implicated in cardiovascular disease," he adds. (Some physicians also believe that trans fatty acids are involved with some cancers.) St Martin notes that new Federal labeling guidelines will require food processors to list trans fatty acids.

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