Soybean oil rich in Omega - 3s

Articles
April 17, 2009

Soybean oil rich in Omega - 3s

Consumers have been challenged to eat more fish and other foods with high levels of heart-healthy omega-3s. But many find it difficult or too expensive to incorporate fatty fish into the diet on a regular basis. Now, thanks to research currently under way, soybeans may become a more valuable source of omega-3. Soy is renewable, stable and easy to consume. But let’s take a step back. What are omega-3s? Harkening back to high school chemistry, omega-3s are fatty acids we consume in food. They are formed by a chain of several carbons with multiple double bonds, commonly referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 refers to the position of the first double bond. In case you’re wondering, there also are omega-6s and omega-9s, but not omega-1s, -2s, -4s or -5s. Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, which means they are essential to human health, but cannot be manufactured by the body, so they must be obtained from food. The challenge is that omega-3 is not present in most of the foods we eat every day, and the food processing industry has had difficulty finding omega-3 food supplements that don’t interfere with taste. Companies today are working to change that by creating a broader omega-3 portfolio for development of new products that can bring omega-3 health benefits to consumers. There are different types of omega-3s fatty acids, with three major omega-3 ingested through food and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to heart healthy omega-3s including EPA, and to a smaller extent DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids most readily used by the body. However, the conversion of ALA to EPA (and then to DHA) is inefficient, and only a small percentage of ALA consumed is made into the beneficial omega-3s.

Consumers have been challenged to eat more fish and other foods with high levels of heart-healthy omega-3s. But many find it difficult or too expensive to incorporate fatty fish into the diet on a regular basis. Now, thanks to research currently under way, soybeans may become a more valuable source of omega-3. Soy is renewable, stable and easy to consume.
But let’s take a step back.  What are omega-3s?  Harkening back to high school chemistry, omega-3s are fatty acids we consume in food.  They are formed by a chain of several carbons with multiple double bonds, commonly referred to as polyunsaturated fatty acids. Omega-3 refers to the position of the first double bond.  In case you’re wondering, there also are omega-6s and omega-9s, but not omega-1s, -2s, -4s or -5s. 

Omega-3s are considered essential fatty acids, which means they are essential to human health, but cannot be manufactured by the body, so they must be obtained from food. The challenge is that omega-3 is not present in most of the foods we eat every day, and the food processing industry has had difficulty finding omega-3 food supplements that don’t interfere with taste.

Companies today are working to change that by creating a broader omega-3 portfolio for development of new products that can bring omega-3 health benefits to consumers. 

There are different types of omega-3s fatty acids, with three major omega-3 ingested through food and used by the body: alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Once eaten, the body converts ALA to heart healthy omega-3s including EPA, and to a smaller extent DHA, the two types of omega-3 fatty acids most readily used by the body. However, the conversion of ALA to EPA (and then to DHA) is inefficient, and only a small percentage of ALA consumed is made into the beneficial omega-3s.

Currently, omega-3 fatty acids can be found in fish and certain plant oils. ALA is found in plant sources including flax, walnuts and canola oil. EPA and DHA are found in fatty fish, like salmon, sardines and tuna. Monsanto has developed soybeans that provide oil enriched in the omega-3 fatty acid called stearidonic acid (SDA).

SDA is more efficiently converted by your body to EPA than current plant sources (ALA) because it bypasses a step in the conversion process. SDA is also more stable and easier to work with than fish oil. 

Omega-3 fatty acids have shown to be beneficial at various life stages and with several health conditions; however, most of the research behind omega-3 benefits are related to heart health. The FDA has recognized the importance of omega-3 fatty acids for reducing the risk of coronary heart disease.

Another benefit of SDA soybeans is that it is a sustainable source of omega-3.  The ocean’s wild fish population is suffering from overfishing, and the product offers an alternative, land-based source of omega-3s.
SDA soybeans will result in a wider range of foods enriched in omega-3s than what is currently on the market, while providing improved flavor stability which is key to shelf-life. SDA soybeans have been processed to provide high-quality SDA oil, similar to commercial soybean oil, which can be used in a wide variety of traditional consumer products, such as soy beverages or granola bars.

Even now, before SDA soybean oil is available for food companies to incorporate in their products, it is a good idea to start including more omega-3 rich foods into the diet. Get started today!