Thirty-Eight Studies Find Soy Products Lower Cholesterol

June 23, 2000

New York (MedscapeWire) Jun 23 — Increasing evidence supports the use of soy products to lower blood cholesterol, a heart-health publication edited by cardiologists reports.

Heart and Health Reports cited a summary of 38 recent studies of the effect of soy on cholesterol: "This summary found that an average intake of 46 grams of soy protein per day reduced total cholesterol by an average of 9 percent, [low-density lipoprotein (LDL)] cholesterol by l3 percent, and triglycerides by 11 percent," the publication said.

Patients who had the highest cholesterol to start with had the greatest cholesterol-lowering benefit from soy, with some studies showing that soy raised high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.

"When we talk about the benefits of soy, we are referring to soy isoflavones and soy protein," nutritionist Stefanie Schwartz wrote in Heart and Health Reports.

"Soy isoflavones are natural plant estrogens, the unique substances thought to be largely responsible for soy's cholesterol-lowering powers," Schwartz said. "It is important to combine soy isoflavones with soy protein, because cholesterol may not be lowered when these substances are taken alone.... It's best to eat soy protein and soy isoflavones together as they naturally occur in soy-based foods."

Schwartz recommended a diet of 25 grams of soy protein with 50 to 60 milligrams of isoflavones daily. Such a diet not only will help prevent heart disease, she said, but also may be advantageous to "lower your cholesterol, keep your arteries elastic, inhibit LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, and help prevent menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis."

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