Soy makes women’s hearts happier

New research suggests soy may improve the cardiac health of women, especially when women include it in their diets early on.

Lifelong soy consumption can be linked to better heart health for post-menopausal women according to a new primate study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society. The study was noted on
Researchers at Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC, studied a group of cynomolgus monkeys (crab-eating macaques) who ate diets containing various level of soy (and crabs, apparently). They fed premenopausal monkeys a diet with protein mainly from animal sources or a diet with protein from high-isoflavone soybeans. After their ovaries were removed to mimic human menopause, one group of monkeys continued to eat a soy diet, another switched from animal protein to soy, a third group continued to be fed animal protein, and a fourth was switched from animal protein to soy.
Researchers checked their cholesterol levels after 34 months, comparing them to the monkeys’ levels at the start of the study. The monkeys who ate soy before and after menopause had “good” levels, according to a release about the study.  Cholesterol levels improved “significantly” for monkeys that were switched to a soy protein diet after menopause, similar to women who become concerned about heart health at this time in life and change their diet.
The monkeys who ate a lifelong diet of soy had much lower proportions of complicated plaque in the arteries than the other monkeys. A postmenopausal switch to soy for the monkeys who had plaque in the arteries at the time of menopause, “markedly reduced the progression of plaque in the arteries.”
Beyond its impact on plaque levels, there’s another reason women may want to consider adding soy to their diet. An earlier study conducted by researchers at the Group Health Research Institute, University of Washington and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Institute found that eating more soy was associated with larger reductions in menopausal vasomotor symptoms (VMS), such as hot flashes, among some women.

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