Plant-derived omega (ω)-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid is an essential fatty acid in human and animal diets and is a precursor of eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, which exists as α-linolenic acid (ALA, ω-3) in plant oil. Several epidemiological studies have revealed the health benefits of regular consumption of ω-3 fatty acid-containing diets. Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] is one of the major oil crops in the world and has around 8% ALA (ω-3) in seed oil. Soybean-derived ω-3 can be potential alternative sources of ω-3 fatty acids for populations living in countries with high risks of inadequate ω-3 intake. Therefore, increasing ω-3 concentration became an important goal in soybean breeding. Conversely, higher content of ω-3 fatty acids makes seed oil rancid, necessitating chemical hydrogenation, which generates trans fats. Since trans fats have been associated with the heart and other diseases, demand for soybeans with reduced ALA content is growing. In this book chapter, we described the importance of ω-3 fatty acid and consumption of diets with balanced ω-6/ω-3 ratio and discussed breeding and biotechnological means (and integrated approaches) for altering the ω-3 fatty acid content to avoid the need for chemical hydrogenation as well as to improve the ω-6/ω-3 ratio.
Part of the book: Plant Breeding