Soybean Oil Health Claim

In 2017 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized a new Qualified Health Claim (QHC) for soybean oil and certain foods made from it, as follows:

“Supportive scientific evidence suggests that eating about 1 ½ tablespoons (20.5grams) daily of soybean oil, which contains unsaturated fat, may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease. To achieve this possible benefit, soybean oil is to replace saturated fat and not increase the total number of calories you eat in a day. A claim on a food product may state: One serving of this product contains [x] grams of soybean oil.”

Food products eligible for this new claim include:

  • Soybean oil
  • Soybean oil-containing dressings for salads
  • Margarines and other spreads
  • Any other products so long as they contain *at least five grams of soybean oil per Reference Amount Customer Consumed (RACC) and meet other restrictions for saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and minimum nutrient

*The rationale for allowing eligible soybean oil-containing foods to make the claim (at least 5g soybean oil/RACC) is to give consumers the flexibility to easily incorporate the minimum effective amount of soybean oil (1½ tablespoons = 20.5g per day) into a typical; eating pattern of 3 meals PLUS 1-2 snacks/day.

Summary of the scientific evidence

The petition to the FDA cited 160 publications as evidence that soybean oil has the potential to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease including:

  • Controlled intervention studies
  • Observational studies
  • Review papers
  • Meta-analyses

This evidence is categorized as follows:

  1. Fatty acid composition of soybean oil, which is favourable:
  • Low in saturated fatty acids (SFA) **             ~15%

Saturated fats are unhealthy and directly contribute to heart disease, raised cholesterol levels, high blood pressure and diabetes.

  • Moderate in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA)             ~23%

MUFAs have excellent health properties, especially in terms of heart, brain and eye health.

  • High in polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA)             ~57%

Approx. 12% of the PUFAs (7% of the total fat) in soybean oil are in the form of omega-3 fatty acids (mostly ALA), making soybean oil unique as it is a PUFA-dominant oil, rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and yet has the same SFA as olive oil (very low). Omega-3 has many proven health benefits of its own (inter alia: brain health, eye health, anti-inflammatory).

2. Non-fatty acid components of soybean oil:

  • Vitamin E and plant sterols which, according to several studies, may also contribute to its cardioprotective properties.

3. Soybean oil’s proven ability to lower the concentration of total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” cholesterol), when used as a replacement for dietary saturated fat without worsening HDL-cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol) or triglycerides.

4. Palm oil versus soybean oil and incidence of myocardial infarctions (MI): A very large study conducted in Costa Rica showed that palm oil users were more likely to have an MI than users of soybean oil.

**a note on saturated fats:    Contrary to current information being used to support Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) diets, the Lancet has recently published an important study and meta- analysis involving >15 400 adults aged 45-64years of age,  with the following conclusive evidence regarding saturated fats:

The study is entitled: “Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis” (Seldemann et al) and concludes that “Low carbohydrate dietary patterns favouring animal-derived protein and fat sources, from sources such as lamb, beef, pork, and chicken (all of which are very high in saturated fats), were associated with higher mortality, whereas those that favoured plant-derived protein and fat intake, from sources such as vegetables, nuts, peanut butter, and whole-grain breads (much lower in saturated fats, and richer in polyunsaturated fats), were associated with lower mortality, suggesting that the source of food notably modifies the association between carbohydrate and mortality.”

Soybean Oil and heart health

In short, it is important to note that a strong body of scientific evidence confirms that soybean oil has cardioprotective properties. Its use is therefore consistent with recommendations in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and other public health authorities.

The food industry and other stakeholders may use this claim on their labels, and should use this opportunity to educate consumers about this heart-healthy oil.

Cooking with Soybean Oil

Soybean oil has a clean, natural taste and a nearly imperceptible odour, which supports and enhances the natural flavours of prepared foods.  Whether it is used as a shortening for old-fashioned pie crust or blended with a flavoured vinegar for a new dressing, soybean oil’s neutral flavour allows the real taste of the food product come through.

Adaptable to nearly every fat or oil application in the food industry, soybean oil works well with other ingredients including other fats and oils, making it very suitable for use in salad dressings, sauces and baked goods.

Soybean oil is available with AOM (active oxygen method) stability levels ranging from 15 to over 300 hours, and it is a proven performer in the wide range of applications required by snack food manufacturers, bakeries, foodservice providers and more.

Soybean Oil Uses: 

  • Salad Dressings
  • Baked Goods (pastries and cakes)
  • Crackers
  • Barbecue Sauce
  • Shortening
  • Non-dairy Creamers
  • Potato Chips
  • Mayonnaise
  • Breads
  • Whipped Topping

Liquid soybean oil is used in 100 percent formulations for cooking oil and to create mayonnaise, salad dressings and sauces. Soybean oil can turn 60ml of olive oil into 600ml of flavoured oil for dressings. The distinctive olive oil aroma will be evident, even though the bulk of the dressing’s oil component comes from inexpensive soybean oil.

Compared to other vegetable oils, soybean oil has good emulsifying ability, making it the first choice of the general food industry.