Awareness of Omega-3 Benefits Soars
More Americans than ever consider omega-3s "healthy." The number of consumers who perceive omega-3 as a healthy fatty acid rose five points to 84 percent, according to the United Soybean Board's (USB) 19th annual Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition survey (vs. 79 percent in 2011). "Omega-3 continues to be the only fat consumers perceive as more healthy than unhealthy," says Lisa Kelly, MPH, RD, for the United Soybean Board.
While fish oil is the preferred source of omega-3s because of the bioavailability of eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) in soybean oil is one of the few non-fish sources and the principal source of omega-3s in the American diet. The American Heart Association says consumers should get ALA from sources such as soybean oils. Relatively low in saturated fat and containing zero grams trans fat, soybean oil is also the primary commercial source of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant against a number of cancers, heart disease, cataracts, premature aging and arthritis.
"With Americans not consuming as much fish as dietitians would like, soybean oil has always been the primary source of omega-3s in their diet, but it is a less bioavailable omega-3 (ALA)," notes Kelly. She adds, "What's really exciting to me is that soybeans producing an excellent source of omega-3s (primarily EPA) are about to hit the marketplace."
Soybean Oil Turns Heads – Consumers Say about Vegetable Oil, "Label It!"
Awareness that most vegetable oil is derived from soybeans rose, up four percentage points from 2011. This increased recognition of vegetable oil as 100 percent soybean oil translates to a more positive perception of vegetable oil. Almost half of consumers say they consider vegetable oil to be healthier after learning that most is 100 percent soybean oil.
When consumers were given the information that most vegetable oil is derived from soybeans, more than a third reported they would be more likely to purchase vegetable oil if it were labeled 100 percent soybean oil. Six in ten Americans consider the fat/oil content when purchasing food, according to a corroborating study by the 2012 International Food Information Council Food & Health Survey, uncovering a potential opportunity for manufacturers to create a more transparent label for soybean oil to better serve consumers. And with 66 percent of consumers citing the nutrition facts panel as the primary source for food and nutrition information, according to IFIC's research results, why not label soybean oil as soybean oil?
Other Key Survey Findings
--Eight in ten (80 percent) consumers believe soy products are healthy overall
--Nearly half of consumers (47 percent) specifically seek out products containing soy because of the nutritional benefits
--More than a quarter of Americans report they consume soyfoods or soy beverages at least once a week
--Increasingly, consumers report less fat/low fat as a nutritional benefit of soybean oil (8 percent in 2011, 15 percent in 2012)
--Increasingly, consumers hear about the health benefits of soy from dietitians (17 percent in 2011, 22 percent in 2012)
--Over half of consumers agree with the statement that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, approved by the Food and Drug Administration (53 percent in 2012, up from 41 percent in 2011)
--Increasingly, consumers report very positive and somewhat positive responses for biotechnology in food production (50 percent positive in 2011, 58 percent positive in 2012)