The world produces approximately 45 million metric tons of soybean oil each year for a variety of products that range from food to cosmetics. However, for many food applications, standard soybean oil needs to undergo various processing steps in order to improve heat stability and shelf life. Specifically, soybean oil is hydrogenated to improve heat stability and shelf life, but this process also increases the amount of saturated fatty acids and creates trans-fats, which have been linked to numerous human health issues.
According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control: “Consuming trans fat increases low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or ‘bad’) cholesterol. This risk factor contributes to the leading cause of death in the U.S. – coronary heart disease (CHD). Trans fat may also have other adverse health effects like decreasing high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or ‘good’) cholesterol. Further reducing trans fat consumption by avoiding artificial trans fat could prevent 10,000-20,000 heart attacks and 3,000-7,000 coronary heart disease deaths each year in the U.S.”
Soybean oil is naturally high in linoleic acid and relatively low in oleic acid. Plant oils naturally high in oleic acid and low in linoleic acid (such as olive and canola oil) do not need to undergo the hydrogenation process to facilitate their use in food applications. Calyxt has created a non-GM variety of soybean that has high oleic acid and low linoleic acid content, eliminating the need for hydrogenation and the creation of trans fats. This new variety has a fatty acid profile very similar to olive oil, with the added benefit of ~20% decrease in saturated fatty acids compared to standard soybean oil.