Minnesota Soybean Business

Field of opportunity: MSR&PC gains strides on impacting cardiovascular health

January-February 2022

Over the years, mice have been used to study human diseases in efforts to improve health and save lives. When the opportunity arose for the Minnesota Soybean Research & Promotion Council (MSR&PC) to partner with the National Institute of Health (NIH) on such a study – well, the answer from Council leaders was a resounding “yes!”

“We have a strong reputation for response, and so when a group like the National Institute of Health calls, we don’t delay. We reach out immediately,” MSR&PC CEO Tom Slunecka said. “Often times it’s those who respond get the opportunity.”

In 2020, the NIH, the federal agency responsible for biomedical and public health research, reached out to MSR&PC Senior Director of Product Development and Commercialization Mike Youngerberg to receive samples of Plenish high oleic soybean oil and conventional soybean oil.

NIH was looking to test these oils in the diets of “humanized” lab mice created specifically to model a human’s susceptibility to cardiovascular disease. NIH had not been expecting a third option: MSR&PC offered to send samples of TruSoya high oleic soybean oil, which was recommended by Youngerberg’s colleague, MSR&PC Director of Market Development Kim Nill.
Each of the three soybean samples had different profiles helping assist with a diversified study:

•Conventional soybean oil had an omega-6/omega-3 ratio was approximately 8:1
•Plenish high oleic soybean oil had an omega-6/omega-3 ratio was approximately 4:1
•TruSoya high oleic soybean oil had an omega-6/omega-3 ratio was approximately 1:1

After years of checkoff-funded research, Nill said it was an easy decision to send NIH the samples.

“Basically, for about $20 in postage, we sent them the samples,” Nill said. “They were thrilled to have the opportunity to evaluate all three side by side.”

‘Big news’

MSR&PC received a preliminary report with some of the results.

Using high-tech equipment similar to an MRI, NIH conducted imaging of aorta atherosclerosis lesions.

“For the mice-fed conventional soybean oil, the lesions were really obvious. For the ones fed Plenish – it was not as bad and for the ones fed TruSoya, the lesions were almost nonexistent,” Nill said. “It was very impressive.”

The study reflected what happens in a lifetime of a human. Blood vessels become lined with plaque, which sets up for one of the biggest killers in America, heart disease, Nill said.

TruSoya was created from checkoff investments, with work completed at the University of Minnesota in conjunction with the United Soybean Board and Missouri Soybean.

“If we alter our diet, and it has to be the whole diet the impact could be great,” Nill said.” If you can get your diet to a 1 to 1 ratio, America could maybe have half the cardiovascular disease they have today. That’s big news.”

What’s next

Once the paper is peer-reviewed it will be published in technical manuals; thus, the opportunities for impact are endless.

“At that point we will be able to redistribute those results to those companies purchasing oil for the food they are manufacturing,” Slunecka said. “We will specifically target those companies that are looking for health claims on their labels.”

Employing checkoff resources, The Council will be looking to target countries who want higher levels of Omega-3 in their diet, specifically Japan. However, there are many other countries that value that higher ratio of Omega-3, Slunecka said.

Aside from making worldly impacts affecting health, TruSoya will make a direct impact to Minnesota farmers. TruSoya is specifically bred to grow in the central to northern region of Minnesota.

Minnesota farmers will have the first opportunity to grow TruSoya. However, breeding will continue to diversify and to make the opportunity to make TruSoya available across the United States.

“TruSoya will make an impact that we are proud of,” says Slunecka. “We look forward to the opportunities this study has brought forth all because we said yes.”

The peer reviewed study from NIH is expected to be released in 2022.


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