Extracts from soybeans find beneficial uses

Linda Benedict, Blanchard, Tobie M.  |  7/28/2011 2:01:22 AM

Cristina Sabliov, working with a team of scientists in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering, has developed a continuous microwave system that can be used to extract beneficial compounds, such as isoflavone oils, from soy flour. 

The process is faster and more cost-effective, energy-efficient and environmentally friendly than traditional extraction methods. The resulting isoflavone oil has antioxidant properties and could be used in vitamin supplements or put into functional foods.

Sabliov has been working on this process for several years, starting with small-scale microwaves. The team, which includes Dorin Bolder and Marybeth Lima, is working on a large-scale microwave extraction system that could be used in a commercial setting.

The team’s research objectives include optimizing a scaled-up system while demonstrating its viability for commercialization. The researchers plan to make the extraction process even more cost-effective through recycling and waste byproduct recovery. Sabliov said the used soybean flour, left over after oil extraction, can be analyzed for potential use as an animal feed.

Sabliov’s work is relevant to food scientists who can use the extracted isoflavones in their research. Zhimin Xu in the LSU AgCenter’s Department of Food Science is using the extracted soy isoflavones as a preservative in ground meat. When ground meat and sausages are manufactured, synthetic preservatives are added.

"We want to replace those with this natural soy extract," Xu said.

The extract is a natural antioxidant that works by preventing lipid oxidation, which leads to meat spoilage. Xu’s work has shown the soy extract can effectively prolong the storage time of ground meat.

Xu’s recent work focused on increasing the antioxidant level of the isoflavones. This would allow him to add less extract to the ground meat while maintaining its preservatives and the meat’s flavor, texture and color.

Another function of a preservative is to act as an antimicrobial, preventing bacteria from spreading. Xu also studies microbial growth in ground meat to determine if this natural preservative will help inhibit it.

Among other research in the food science department is Jack Losso’s work with extracting lutein, a beneficial antioxidant, from distillers grains, a byproduct of the ethanol process. Losso obtained a patent for his process that isolates the lutein from corn, even aflatoxin-contaminated corn. Lutein is useful in delaying or preventing vision loss through macular degeneration.

"Lutein has good properties of keeping cells together, and cell communication is important when a disease occurs," Losso said.

Losso said that diseased cells in chronic degenerative diseases such as macular degeneration or cancer do not communicate with each other. This makes it difficult for drugs to move around diseased cells and act properly, but lutein can help restore communication. Losso is working on developing a lutein delivery system so the compound could be added to foods or medicines.

He also plans to look into lutein’s ability to prevent low-grade inflammation associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Tobie Blanchard

(This article was published in the winter 2011 issue of Louisiana Agriculture Magazine.)

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