Newswise (03/29/07) — Recent controversy has surfaced regarding the efficacy of soy protein consumption in reducing serum cholesterol. Of primary concern is whether a 1995 meta-analysis (which generated considerable excitement in the medical community) accurately estimated the impact of soy consumption on cholesterol lowering. Following are the facts you should know about soy and heart health.
FACT: Experts agree soy protein lowers cholesterol
A 2006 American Heart Association (AHA) research review found that soy protein lowers blood cholesterol above and beyond that realized from a low fat, low cholesterol diet. This finding is consistent with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizing that soy protein lowers cholesterol by between 3 and 8 percent.
FACT: Experts agree soy has additional heart health benefits
The AHA report noted that soy foods are heart healthy because of their high content of polyunsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and low content of saturated fat, making them an ideal substitute for less healthy foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. The FDA and, similarly, the AHA have agreed that soy foods appear to modestly lower triglycerides and raise HDL (“Good”) blood cholesterol levels.
FACT: Eight governments recognize the heart health benefits of soy
Authorities around the world have approved health claims supporting the consumption of soy protein and a lowering of blood cholesterol, including the USA, Korea, Japan, Brazil, Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and the United Kingdom. These claims were approved based on an extensive review of scientific literature to determine that the relationship between soy protein and lowered cholesterol was well established. It’s the weight of this scientific evidence that led so many government health authorities to approve soy/heart health claims.
FACT: Soy protein is a food, not a prescription drug
Soy foods have the unique ability to both lower LDL (“Bad”) cholesterol and lower triglycerides, but not to the degree expected from cholesterol-lowering medications. That soy products have been found to lower blood cholesterol even a small amount, however, has the potential to dramatically impact public health. One may argue whether a 3 – 8 percent reduction in cholesterol is “clinically significant,” but the bottom line is that heart disease prevention depends on small life changes. Neither pharmaceuticals nor soy foods are by themselves panaceas for a healthy heart.