Search results for soy

Wednesday Bubble: the soy controversy

Posted by on Apr 7, 2010 in bone health, emotions, hot flash | 0 comments

Do they or don’t they?

Soy isoflavones have been touted as beneficial in everything from improving body composition and lowering breast and colorectal cancer, to addressing menopausal hot flashes and moods. You can read about some of these findings on Flashfree. This week, Reuters Health reported that eating foods rich in soy protein (i.e. 25 grams of soy protein and 60 mg isoflavones) daily did not provide favorable responses from blood fats, implying that soy has little benefit in terms of lowering cholesterol levels and in turn, promoting heart health.

Are you confused yet?

Increasingly, women are turning to soy and other compounds as alternatives to estrogen and hormone replacement therapy, which mounting evidence shows can be associated with a broad range of risks including  increased breast, lung and ovarian cancer to heart disease. And yet, findings from clinical trials examining soy are often contradictory, making it difficult to come to any firm conclusion about its benefits.

What’s the problem? Well, researchers say that part of the problem is poorly designed studies, small number of study participants, wide range of ages and years from menopause, studies that don’t examine the pros and cons of an agent or strategy for a long enough period of time (i.e. longer than a year). In other cases (as I’ve argued previously), the study design does not account for certain factors that are critical to a therapeutic strategy, for example, the opportunity to clearly focus an intervention so that individual factors are accounted for (this was borne out by findings from a trial that examined and provided evidence for the role of acupuncture in easing hot flashes).

There’s good news though! Researchers finally appear to be getting their act together on the soy fron. They’ve announced that they are conducting a well-designed, large trial of soy phytoestrogens. Called  SPARE (Soy Phytoestrogens as Replacement Estrogen), this new study will be looking at the effects of 200 mg soy versus sugar tablet daily — namely on bone health and symptoms —  in 248 menopausal women over a two- year period. They will also be taking daily calcium carbonate plus vitamin D (in ranges of 500 mg to 1000 mg calcium and 200 to 400 IU vitamin D, depending on previous intake).

The study is specifically geared towards looking at spine bone density, but will also be looking at hip density, thyroid levels, menopausal symptoms, mood changes, depression, and quality of life, as well as any changes in blood fats. Study participants are between the ages of 45 and 60 and are within five years from menopause. What’s more, the researchers have also included a large percentage of hispanic women, which allows them to focus on how soy affects this minority group (Notably, the large multiethnic population of women in this study includes Asians, Blacks and Caucasians.)

The researchers say that they hope that the results of SPARE will provide a range of information that is especially relevant to Boomers reaching menopause. They also note that the dose of soy isoflavones being studied is much larger than what’s been studied in previously and are roughly twice that typically consumed in the Asian diet.

I realize that this post is pretty scientific. But what makes it most relevant is that it appears that researchers are finally starting to design studies that might actually show benefit of some of the alternative strategies we have available to us on the market. For those of you who insist on calling these alternatives “snake oil,” all I can say is ‘stay tuned.’

This bubble might finally be shattered; perhaps all that is needed is a better understanding of what it needs to test these substances appropriately.

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Got fat? Soyrry but soy won’t help!

Posted by on Mar 22, 2010 in weight | 1 comment

Novel research suggests that eating soy protein won’t affect overall body composition, even though there has been some past evidence that isoflavones in soy may help build muscle mass and break down fat. What’s the 4-11?

In this latest bit of data, 299 postmenopausal women with body-mass indices of around 25 (signifying “overweight”) too either placebo or soy isoflavone tablets for a year. The findings? Ingesting soy isoflavones had no significant effect on either body composition or on specific hormones that control appetite. The one factor that contributed to fat mass? The amount of total fat consumed.

Seems that the way to a more muscle mass is not through soy but rather, through a healthy diet and of course, exercise. Still, can we women ‘of a certain age’ get rid of the tire that’s forming around our middle? I’d love to hear how if you’ve got some ideas. Even my trainer admits that hormonal changes add to the roll and that it’s difficult to get rid of it completely.

Fortunately, the folks at Rush University Medical Center will be studying this midlife dilemma over the next five years. While they say that there’s no way to completely eliminate the tire, there are ways to minimize it. Stay tuned!

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More joys of soy

Posted by on Apr 13, 2009 in heart disease, menopause | 5 comments

More news on soy. Researchers have discovered yet another component of soy isoflavones that may prove useful in improving symptoms of menopause: soy aglycons of isoflavones (SAI). Soy aglycons are a group of chemicals found in fermented soybeans and comprise a great portion of diets for Chinese and Japanese individuals. Of note, high cholesterol, coronary heart disease, and menopausal symptoms are often seen in a smaller percentage of these women than their European and American counterparts.

Among the various chemical molecules of soy, SAI are absorbed faster and more efficiently than other components.

In this particular study, which was just published in Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers fed rats whose ovaries had been removed either high or low doses of SAI-supplemented diets. These animals were then compared to rats with intact ovaries who were fed a regular diet.

The researchers found that rats fed supplemental SAI had significantly lower cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL)  values , higher high-density lipoprotein (HDL) levels and faster liver metabolism.  The lining of the uterus was also enhanced by dietary SAI supplementation.

They said that these results suggest that SAI may help protect against or lessen symptoms during menopause that are associated with the natural decline of estrogen.  SAI might also be an effective and safe alternative to HRT, which has been linked to breast and uterine cancers. In general, SAI may protect against menopausal heart disease.

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More on soy

Posted by on Feb 6, 2009 in colon cancer | 2 comments

I’ve posted several times about the potential effectiveness of soy isoflavones for safely relieving certain symptoms such as hot flashes. You can find those posts here.

Evidence now suggests that the benefits of soy may extend beyond troublesome menopause symptoms.  In fact, it appears that eating soy foods may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer after menopause.

In this study, published in February’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined 68,412 women (ages 40 to 70) who were cancer- and diabetes-free at the start of the trial. Information on soy food intake was assessed at the start and then at follow up through in-person interviews and questionnaires.

Over the entire study, 321 colorectal cancer cases were identified. However, after adjusting any factors that might skew the results, the researchers found that:

  • Total soy food intake was associated with a lower risk for developing colorectal cancer
  • For each 5 gram increase daily in soy foods (~1 oz tofu), there was an 8% reduction in cancer risk
  • The association between intake of soy foods and lowered colorectal cancer risk was mostly seen in post-menopausal women

Similar results were also observed for soy protein intake and isoflavones.

These promising findings suggest the potential to not only glean benefit from eating soy-rich foods during menopause but also well beyond menopause. Encouraging news!

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Soy-ta interesting….

Posted by on Jan 30, 2009 in herbal medicine | 1 comment

A new study suggests that a key component of an isoflavone found in soy, confers significant improvements in mood-related symptoms in perimenopausal and postmenopausal women who lack the ability to produce this component on their own. The component, which is called S-equol, is involved in the metabolism of an isoflavone known as daidzein.

In this study, which appears  in the online edition of the journal Menopause, researchers randomly and blindly assigned 134 women to daily placebo, 10 mg of equol daily or 10 mg equol three times a day. All study participants also completed questionnaires at the study’s start and after the completion of the study on menopausal symptoms and moods. Additionally, they underwent physical exams and urine testing.

The results showed that women taking equol experienced significant declines in all menopausal mood symptoms except depression (although compared to women who were assigned placebo, the decline in depression was significant).

Overall, women taking equol showed significant declines in tension-anxiety and fatigue, and improvements in vigor scores. No side effects were noted, except for a rash in one woman taking equol.

These data suggest that supplementation with S-equol may help to improve mood-related symptoms in peri- and post-menopausal women. What’s more, the team concluded that equol supplementation may offer a promising alternative to estrogen therapy.

Sorta interesting, right?!

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