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Soya Isoflavones May Help Protect Bones During Menopause

Concerned about soya? Another study adds to the debate about whether consuming soya is a healthy choice, finding that it may benefit menopausal women at risk for osteoporosis. Presented at the Society for Endocrinology’s 2015 annual conference, the study randomly assigned 200 women in early menopause (two years within onset of menopause) to one of two groups: the first group received 30 grams of soya protein plus 66 mg of soya isoflavones daily, while the second group received only 30 grams of soya protein daily. After six months, here is what the researchers found:

  • Women who consumed soya protein plus isoflavones had significantly lower levels of a protein related to bone breakdown in their blood, compared to women who consumed soya protein alone. Lower levels of this protein are thought to indicate a slower rate of bone loss that could, over time, lead to a reduced risk of osteoporosis.
  • In addition, compared to women in the soya protein-only group, women in the isoflavone group had beneficial reductions in levels of fasting glucose and fasting insulin—markers of carbohydrate metabolism closely linked to cardiovascular disease risk.

These findings show that taking soya protein plus isoflavones might slow bone loss in the short term, but longer studies that measure actual changes in bone mineral density are needed to determine whether this effect translates into protection against osteoporosis. One possible explanation for soya isoflavones’ benefits is that they are similar in chemical structure to human oestrogen, and so might stimulate bone regenerative activity by interacting with oestrogen receptors. This could be especially important after menopause when oestrogen production is at its lowest. It is important to note that, while a typical Asian diet contains a similar amount of soya isoflavones as was used in this study, a typical Western diet only contains a fraction of that amount (about 2–16 mg).

Source: Society for Endocrinology 2015

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