Heart-friendlier products may be one of the benefits from new corn varieties developed by US scientists at the US department of agriculture's chief scientific research agency and Iowa State university (ISU).
The 14 new lines - developed by the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) - could eventually help users of corn-based cooking oils and margarine to keep blood cholesterol levels in check, claim the scientists.
They could also hail in salad dressings with longer shelf lives, as well as less-costly animal feed.
Geneticist Linda Pollak and plant biologist Susan Duvick of ARS, along with ISU food science professor Pamela White, crossed traditional Corn Belt inbred lines with varieties, cultivated during past independent studies, that contain genes from eastern gamagrass, Tripsacum dactyloides.
They report that some of their corn lines yield oils with 60 to 70 per cent oleic acid, a compound that helps products stay fresh for longer and has been linked to helping lower blood cholesterol in people.
Most commercially available corn oils contain 20 to 30 per cent oleic acid. The scientists write that high oleic acid content could also lead to margarine manufacturers omitting hydrogenation, a process that creates the much criticised trans fatty acids that are believed to raise cholesterol.
According to the ARS, some of the oils from the newly developed corn lines have total saturated fatty acid compositions as low as 6.5 per cent, compared to the 13 per cent found in corn oils currently available.
Future research will focus on examining the types of products that can use the high-oleic lines, and on crossing the new lines with existing corn varieties.
The researchers are awaiting patent approval for the Tripsacum-introgressed corn lines and are seeking commercial partners.