Home Health Debates Is Soy February’s Health Food?

Is Soy February’s Health Food?

written by Head Health Nutter February 11, 2009

Celebrating Heart Month, last post we introduced a designer necklace financed by the United Soybean Board to raise funds for the heart health research foundation, WomenHeart. We touched only briefly on how soy is related to heart health. The following information is found in one of four health benefit sections, Heart Health, professionally referenced and provided by the United Soybean Board in the pamphlet, “Soy for Health Benefits”:

The American Heart Association has recognized soyfoods for their role in an overall heart-healthy diet.

Soy protein directly lowers blood cholesterol levels, a major risk factor for coronary heart disease (CHD). In 1999, after reviewing significant clinical research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for soy protein and coronary heart disease. Similar claims have been approved in at least eight other countries. 

Recent analyses indicate soy protein lowers LDL-cholesterol from 3 to 5%. Over a period of many years, each 1% decrease in LDL can reduce CHD disease risk from 2 to 4%.

Soy may favorably affect other CHD risk factors, via the following actions:

  • Modestly raising HDL-cholesterol
  • Lowering blood levels of triglycerides
  • Making LDL-cholesterol less atherogenic
  • Directly improving the health of coronary arteries, via soybean isoflavones (phytoestrogens)

A recent epidemiologic study found that Chinese postmenopausal women who consumed the most soy were 86% less likely to report a heart attack compared to women who consumed the least soy.

These statements all contribute to the notion that soyfoods are good for you, but as we’ve debated here on Live Lighter before, conflicting information questions the validity of these findings. Lucky for us, the United Soybean Board has also produced a “Soyfoods Safety Issues” pamphlet written by Mark Messina, PhD, which I highly recommend reading. He ends his introduction with:

Finally, it should be noted that most highly investigated foods or food components have been linked with adverse side effects in at least some studies. Studies have linked dairy milk consumption with colorectal and prostate cancer, and whole grains with a decrease in mineral absorption; nevertheless, the nutrition community recommends these foods because the preponderance of evidence indicates that they are nutritionally beneficial.

What do you think of soy, readers? Is it healthy for you, or not? Is it a food that you would start consuming more of to increase your heart health?

By the way, here’s a great McGill University article for tips in how to increase heart and brain health.

The United Soybean Board (USB) is a farmer-led organization comprised of 68 farmer-directors. Working with independent academic researchers affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and academic institutions, USB has invested millions of dollars into health and nutrition research related to soy. Soybean farmers take pride in producing one of the healthiest food crops in the world. To access healthy soy recipes and more nutrition information, please visit www.soyconnection.com.

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