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Collaborative Success Stories: Never Bean Better


University of Missouri scientists have developed soybeans whose oil can be used for food processing without adding unhealthy trans fats.

Many commonly consumed foods—crackers, frozen dinners, microwave popcorn and salad dressing, to name a few—are processed with partially hydrogenated soybean oil.  The oil helps make food shelf-stable and adds flavor, but the trans fat it contains has been linked to heart disease and increased abdominal fat.

Now, MU plant scientists Grover Shannon and Kristin Bilyeu have developed a way to breed soybeans with naturally occurring genes of high oleic acid. The high oleic acid dramatically changes the stability of the oil, preventing the need for hydrogenation and making it free of trans fat.

Although the high oleic acid soybeans are not yet market-ready, the discovery comes at an opportune time: in 2013, the FDA tentatively concluded that foods containing partially hydrogenated oils are unsafe for consumption.  An additional review process is underway; if the findings are confirmed, the sale of such food will be prohibited—leaving manufacturers with a need for an alternate solution. The discovery is also welcome news for soybean farmers across the nation, who have seen declining sales due to consumers’ growing health concerns about trans fats.

Dr. Grover Shannon is professor of plant sciences and Dr. Kristin Bilyeu is USDA Agricultural Research Service and adjunct associate professor in MU’s Division of Plant Sciences, part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

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Related Initiative(s):
Food for the Future, One Health/One Medicine,