Soy Booms as Alternative to Hormone Therapy for Women; Sales to Reach $3.5 Billion This Year

WASHINGTON, Sept. 23 /PRNewswire/ -- Thanks in large part to women's worries about taking hormones, soy, which contains plant estrogens, is soaring in popularity, the national newspaper USA Today reports.

With retail sales of soyfoods in the U.S. expected to surpass $3.5 billion this year, soy is being widely touted as helpful to relieve hot flashes for women undergoing menopausal and post-menopausal problems.

The soy boom follows a July announcement warning against one form of hormone replacement therapy. A study, the Women's Health Initiative, found that health risks increased among women using a combination of the hormones estrogen and progestin.

"A woman who is not going to take HRT (hormone replacement therapy) will probably get some benefit from consuming soy," Professor Mindy Kurzer of the University of Minnesota-St. Paul, a nutrition specialist, told USA Today.

Hundreds of studies using soy protein and soyfoods have been conducted, she noted, and said more research is needed to assess the benefits. "The manufacturers are way ahead of the science."

Measuring the effects of various therapies on menopausal symptoms has been difficult, because of both the placebo effects and individual response variation. New studies, however, are beginning to show benefit from soy isoflavones in relieving menopausal symptoms. One study, conducted in Brazil by scientists at the Federal University of Sao Paulo's School of Medicine, has shown that isoflavone treatment can be a safe and effective alternative treatment for menopausal symptoms.

Soy appears to be a "logical alternative" to conventional hormone replacement therapy, the USA Today article by Rita Rubin said. The article pointed out that in Japan, where people routinely eat one or two servings of soy each day, "women are much less likely to report having menopause symptoms than women in the USA."

Japanese women also have lower rates of heart disease, breast cancer and fractures. On average, the Japanese consume fewer calories and drink more green tea than Americans. Both are factors thought to protect against heart disease and possibly cancer, the article said.

USA Today also reported on a study published in the Journal of Women's Health and Gender-Based Medicine finding that post-menopausal women who ate a lot of soy had greater bone density in their spine than women who didn't.

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