Monsanto, Solae (a joint venture of DuPont and Bunge), BASF and Dow AgroSciences are working on the development of long-chain fatty acids from oilseeds such as soy, canola and flaxseed. Monsanto is developing a canola oil containing SDA (stearidonic acid), one of several types of omega-3, and is working with Solae to develop a high-omega-3 strain of soybean. According to Tony Arnold, president and CEO of Solae, the goal is an affordable and sustainable source of omega-3 ingredients.
Monsanto and DuPont independently have been conducting research on producing soybeans with high levels of omega-3. DuPont’s soybeans, which reportedly contain 40 percent omega-3 fatty acid, are in the first stage of development.
Meanwhile, Martek and Dow AgroSciences, which has developed a canola seed containing omega-9 that is being used for a line of fortified oils, plan to apply an omega-3-producing gene from Martek’s microalgae to produce a DHA-rich canola oil. Martek is also working with General Mills’ microencapsulation technology to deliver cost-effective DHA powders for certain food and beverage applications.
Don’t forget MUFAs
Often overlooked in discussion about healthful fatty acids is omega-9, including oleic acid (OA) and its derivatives, or monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs). Our bodies make omega-9 naturally, so it is not considered an essential fatty acid to consume. But there can be a problem. Unless omega-3 and omega-6 are present in the body, omega-9 cannot be synthesized.
The most common sources of omega-9 fatty acids are olive, canola and sunflower oils, as well as nuts such as almonds. “MUFAs have been proven to lower LDL and increase HDL cholesterol, reducing the risk of various heart conditions,” says Dave Dzisiak, healthy oils global commercial leader with Dow AgroSciences, Indianapolis. “Recent [April] research from American Medical Assn. has shown that Mediterranean diets [which are high in monounsaturated fats] show a causal relationship in reduction of cardiovascular diseases.”
In the mid-1990s, Dow AgroSciences was the first to develop a new line of naturally bred canola and sunflower seeds that had exceptional stability without hydrogenation. “These seeds are the source of what we know as omega-9 oils,” says Dzisiak. “The oils have a unique combination of high-oleic, or omega-9 (more than 70 percent) and low linolenic, or omega-3 (less than 3 percent). This unique fatty acid profile gives omega-9 oils their unique taste, health and performance benefits.
“The oil is one of the best solutions for foodservice because it can perform better than partially hydrogenated oils in demanding kitchens, but has zero trans fat, low saturated fat and is high in monounsaturated fat,” he says.
In processed food products, omega-9 oils can help maintain texture, says Dzisiak. They are naturally stable without hydrogenation or high saturated fat levels, have the stability needed for longer shelf life and reduce the need to add antioxidants. “A longer shelf life translates into improved economics for anyone in food product development,” he points out.