FDA says soybean oil is ‘heart healthy’

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harvesting soybeans
Harvesting soybeans (Farm and Dairy file photo)

ST. LOUIS — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Bunge North America’s petition for a qualified health claim linking consumption of soybean oil to reduced risk of coronary heart disease.

Bunge independently filed a petition with the FDA that included a summary of human clinical studies from top nutrition researchers demonstrating the heart health potential of soybean oil — America’s most commonly used ingredient and top dietary source of omega-3 fats.

Upon review, the FDA will allow companies to communicate that soybean oil may reduce coronary heart disease risk and lower LDL-cholesterol when replacing saturated fat and not increasing calories.

Now, food companies and restaurants can use the heart health claim with some of their most popular products where soybean oil is typically used, including bottled oil, dressings, dips, snacks and baked goods.

Health concerns

According to the Hartman Group, heart health is the No. 1 health feature U.S. consumers look for when grocery shopping. In addition, 55 percent of U.S consumers are trying to avoid or reduce saturated fat in their diet, and almost 40 percent are trying to incorporate healthier fats, such as polyunsaturated and monounsatured fats.

“Based on a compelling set of human studies from top nutrition researchers showing that soybean oil could lower LDL cholesterol when replacing saturated fat, we proactively petitioned the FDA to permit the claim recognizing that enabling heart health communications for this oil would further enhance its attractiveness,” said Dr. Mark Stavro, senior director of marketing, Bunge North America.

The FDA’s decision provides opportunities for food companies eager to develop heart-healthy products, consumers looking to improve heart health, and soybean farmers who thrive when demand for their crop increases.

“The food industry is by far our largest customer for soybean oil and by submitting this claim Bunge is really looking out for soybean farmers and our long-term profitability,” said John Motter, United Soybean Board chairman and soybean farmer from Jenera, Ohio. “This claim really helps U.S. soybean farmers maintain their competitiveness in this critical market and helps us compete with other oils that have become synonymous with heart health.”

Cardiovascular benefits

The American Heart Association recently went on record regarding the cardiovascular benefits of the fats found in soybean oil.

“We conclude strongly that lowering intake of saturated fat and replacing it with unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, like those found in soybean oil, will lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease,” said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, co-author of Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease, A Presidential Advisory from the American Heart Association, published in June, 2017.

The U.S. is the world’s leading soybean producer, accounting for 33 percent of global production. Bunge is a leading soybean oil producer in the U.S. and around the world. It works closely with soybean farmers to turn their harvest into an oil that is foundational in foods.

“We take great pride in the trusted relationships we have with our farmer customers and work hard to develop new markets for their crops,” said Timothy Gallagher, executive vice president, Oilseed Value Chain, Bunge North America. “By promoting soybean oil’s heart health benefits, we are helping to drive demand for a high-quality product that can benefit the full soybean value chain from farm to table.”

Based on the newly permitted soybean oil and heart health claim, food providers are allowed to make heart health claims when food and menu items include at least 5 grams of soybean oil per serving and also meet applicable criteria for saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content.

In order to be deemed heart healthy, soybean-oil-containing food products, including margarine, margarine substitutes, and margarine products must also be a good source of one of six beneficial nutrients identified by FDA.

Soybean oil, soybean oil blends, salad dressings, and shortenings can carry the claim without having to be a good source of one of these six nutrients, but must meet criteria for saturated, trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium content.

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