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Soy Has Little, if Any, Effect on Heart Disease, Hot Flashes

February 14, 2006 | 10,354 views

The Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association has examined decades' worth of studies on the health benefits of soy, and has found little evidence that soy-based foods and supplements significantly lower cholesterol, as has sometimes been claimed.

These findings could result in the FDA changing rules that currently allow companies that produce soy-based foods to advertise a cholesterol-lowering benefit on the label.

No Observed Benefits

While a very large amount of soy protein might lower LDL ("bad") cholesterol by a few percentage points, there were no observed benefits with regard to HDL ("good") cholesterol, triglycerides, lipoprotein, or blood pressure. The benefits of soy supplements to cardiovascular health are therefore likely "minimal at best."

Not Recommended

Further, soy isoflavones had no effect on "hot flashes" during menopause. And as for claims that soy isoflavones are useful for treating and preventing breast, endometrial and prostate cancers, the committee said, "Evidence of benefit from clinical trials is meager and cautionary with regard to a possible adverse effect. For this reason, use of isoflavone supplements in food or pills is not recommended."


Dr. Mercola's Comments:

Many consumers view soy protein as the (relatively) new "wonder" food for the heart -- but as I've been saying for some time, this is far from the truth. Now my assertion is even being confirmed by the American Heart Association.

Considering the growing number of studies regarding the harm you can do to your body by eating soy, it's not completely surprising that the conventional medical establishment may finally be getting it ...

A telling quote by a noted cardiologist that speaks volumes about soy's true worth: "If [patients] are radically altering their diet, where they're only eating soy in the hopes that this is going to bring their cholesterol down, they're deluding themselves."

In fact, non-fermented soy products contain a number of potentially health-disrupting "anti-nutrients," such as phytic acid. You would be wisest to avoid any such foods, which include:

  • Tofu
  • Soy milk
  • Soy hot dogs and other "meatless" products made with soy or textured vegetable protein (TVP), which is usually soy based
  • Soy yogurt and ice cream
  • Soy protein

The fermentation process, however, drastically decreases the levels of the dangerous components of soy, and also aids in liberating otherwise difficult to digest nutrients in the soybean, making them more available for absorption.

Fermented soy products (such as miso, soy sauce, natto, and tempeh) are therefore safe to eat. However, don't expect "miracle cures" for your cholesterol even from safe soy foods.

If you really want to lower your cholesterol levels, there are two primary strategies that work well over 99 percent of the time if properly implemented. They are:

  • Daily cardiovascular exercise
  • Low-grain diet

A healthy food plan with little to no grains and sugars will effectively lower insulin levels -- and elevated insulin levels are one of the primary drivers for raising cholesterol.

And just as important is exercising regularly. The key to exercising effectively is to keep in mind three important variables: length of time, frequency and intensity. I encourage my patients to gradually increase the amount of time they are exercising to 60 to 90 minutes a day. Initially the frequency is daily.

This is a treatment dose until you normalize your weight or insulin levels. Once normalized, you will only need to exercise three to four times a week.

Anyone interested in regulating their cholesterol without drugs can find these methods completely explained in my book Total Health Program. Most anyone who follows it will find that their cholesterol levels will reach a healthy level, and numerous other health complaints will disappear as well.

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