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Studies Confirm The Heart Health Benefit Of Soy

Armen Hareyan's picture

Health Benefits Of Soy

Research confirms findings of the Food and Drug Administration health claim for soy protein and heart disease.

Soy protein was shown to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol in the blood from 3-14 percent, depending on the starting point for blood cholesterol and the current diet and drug routine of individuals.

Dr. Willett's study on women with metabolic syndrome appeared in the March edition of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Dr. Lichtenstein's study on people with high blood cholesterol, and the meta-analysis conducted by the Japanese researchers, appear in the April issue of the same journal. These findings are consistent with results of many studies confirming that soy protein's cholesterol- lowering effects are modest, but important, for those concerned with heart health. Medical doctors and scientists contacted by the Soyfoods Association of North America (SANA) agree that for individuals who do not require cholesterol-lowering drugs, soy foods are among the smartest choices of foods that lower LDL cholesterol without any adverse effects.

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"The cholesterol-lowering effect of soy is directly related to soy protein and other soy components, and not only to its low saturated fat content," notes Francene Steinberg, Ph.D., R.D. of University of California at Davis, regarding her editorial in the April issue of the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition." "The science has not explained the exact mechanism by which soy improves cholesterol, but there is a clear benefit of including soy protein in a healthy diet."

David Jenkins MD, PhD, DSc. of the University of Toronto agrees, "Soy products are heart healthy for two reasons. First, they may make a significant reduction in cholesterol because of something in the soy itself, and second, they may displace saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet. It is the combined reduction due to soy itself and the reduction due to replacing other high-cholesterol foods that make soy food a heart healthy choice."

Besides lowering cholesterol, research on the role of soy in heart disease has found other effects believed to reduce heart disease risk, such as reducing triglyceride levels, raising HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and improving LDL particle size.

"Soy foods are the best foods you can put on the table," asserts James Anderson, M.D., of the Virginia Medical Center and University of Kentucky. "Soy foods lower LDL cholesterol about 5-6 percent, lower triglycerides 8 percent, and raise HDL (good) cholesterol 2-3 percent. These are all meaningful changes reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in the range of about 15 percent."

The American Heart Association's (AHA) 2006 Dietary Recommendations include substituting soy foods for animal products high in saturated fat and cholesterol. Recent studies support that the LDL cholesterol lowering effect of soy foods is beneficial in people with hypercholesterolemia, who are at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD). Further supporting evidence includes the low prevalence of heart disease in Asian populations and others who regularly consume soy compared to those consuming a typical Western diet. Soy foods can be enjoyed in many forms and at every meal and they are available in supermarkets nationwide.