Understanding Soy Foods: Possible Benefits of Eating Soy Foods
Many people are including soy foods in their diets because of their
reputed health benefits:
- Epidemiology studies have found that people who have more soy
in their diet have lower risk for cancers, including cancer of
the breast, colon, and prostate.1
- Soy protein reduces cholesterol, enhances coronary artery function,
and reduces other heart disease risk factors.2, 3, 4
- Soy foods have a favorable effect on bone mineral density.
The isoflavones contained in soy foods may improve bone retention,
and replacing animal protein with soy protein in the diet reduces
the amount of calcium lost in the urine.5, 6
In Asia, where tofu, soymilk, and other soy products are commonly
consumed, cancer and heart disease are much more rare than
in the United States and Europe, and longevity is greater. However,
it is important to remember that the apparent benefits of soy
consumption seen in epidemiological studies may be caused by
people replacing unhealthy foods—such as meat, chicken,
dairy, and eggs—with plant–protein sources like soy.
Simply adding soy to a diet focused on animal products is unlikely
to bring the same benefits.
1. Badger T, Ronis M, Simmen R, Simmen F. Soy Protein Isolate
and Protection Against Cancer Journal of the American
College of Nutrition, Vol. 24, No. 2, 146S–149S (2005)
2. Anderson JW, Johnstone BM, Cook–Newell ME. Meta–analysis
of the effects of soy protein intake on serum lipids. N Engl
J Med. 1995 Aug 3;333(5):276–82.
3. Nestel PJ, Yamashita T, Sasahara T, Pomeroy S, Dart A,
Komesaroff P, Owen A, Abbey M. Soy isoflavones improve systemic
arterial compliance but not plasma lipids in menopausal and
perimenopausal women. Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1997
4. Squadrito F, Altavilla D, Morabito N, Crisafulli A, D'Anna
R, Corrado F, Ruggeri P, Campo GM, Calapai G, Caputi AP,
Squadrito G. The effect of the phytoestrogen genistein on
plasma nitric oxide concentrations, endothelin–1 levels and
endothelium dependent vasodilation in postmenopausal women.
Atherosclerosis. 2002 Aug;163(2):339–47.
5. Ho SC, Chan SG, Yi Q, Wong E, Leung PC. Soy intake and
the maintenance of peak bone mass in Hong Kong Chinese women.
J Bone Miner Res. 2001 Jul;16(7):1363–9.
6. Spence LA et al: Effects of Soy isoflavones on calcium
metabolism in postmenopausal women. J Nutr 132: 581S,2002.