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University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Publish Date: 06/14/99
Media Contact: AHC Public Relations, (513) 558-4553
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Study Shows Benefits of Dietary Soy Supplementation

CincinnatióCardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women in the United States. Osteoporosis and subsequent fractures affect 25 million Americans and result in $14 billion in health care costs annually. Collaborative researchers from the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Pediatrics, and Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine and Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, have found that a diet rich in soy products can reduce the risk factors for cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women, reducing health care costs in the future.

Michael Scheiber, MD, clinical fellow in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, will present the results of his study at the 1999 Annual Meeting of the Endocrine Society in San Diego on June 14. Scheiber along with Robert Rebar, MD, James Liu, MD, Ravi Subbiah, PhD, and Kenneth Setchell, PhD, conducted the study to determine if three daily servings of either soy milk or roasted soy nuts eaten as part of a regular diet could reduce clinical risk factors in postmenopausal women. The group had 43 postmenopausal women with an average age of 55 years complete the study funded in part by a grant from the North American Menopause Society and contributions from Sanitarium Corporation of Australia.

After 12 weeks of soy in the diet, participants had statistically significant reductions in several areas, such as a 14 percent decrease of urine excretion of NTx, which is a compound found in the urine when bone is being lost. Those women who were losing bone the fastest at the beginning of the study showed a 26 percent decline in bone loss. A different marker for bone formation, serum osteocalcin, increased over 10 percent in study participants, indicating that new bone was being formed. Patients also experienced a 4 percent improvement in their HDL (good cholesterol) and a significant improvement in their ratio of good to bad cholesterol, which may translate into a reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease. The soy-rich diet also caused a 9 percent reduction in the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol) in participants' blood, making the cholesterol less likely to cause blood vessel damage or atherosclerosis. No increase was noted in the women's triglyceride levels. Elevated triglycerides can sometimes be an unwanted side effect of estrogen replacement therapy (ERT).

Natural soy products contain plant compounds called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens bind to estrogen receptors and reduce the severity of hot flushes during menopause. Synthetic drugs made from phytoestrogens can prevent osteoporotic fractures in postmenopausal women. Phytoestrogens also inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and the formation of malignant breast tumors in animal models.

While a soy-rich diet could be a possible alternative therapy to ERT, the authors caution that more studies need to be conducted comparing women who eat soy products to those who do not in order to determine whether a reduction in the known risk factors translates into a reduction in cardiac and bone disease.

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