Recent research suggests that a diet rich in soy protein and isoflavones can protect menopausal women from developing osteoporosis. The findings were presented at the Society of Endocrinology conference.
Osteoporosis commonly affects aging women and leads to fragile and brittle bones. In the years immediately after menopause women experience the greatest bone loss because they produce less estrogen which helps keeps bones strong.
As they contain certain isoflavones which act like estrogen, soybean foods play a crucial role in helping against bone loss.
Researchers from the University of Hull gave 200 women in early menopause a daily supplement of soy protein with soy isoflavones or just a supplement containing soy protein. The researchers analyzed changes in bone activity from the women’s blood.
The women on the soy protein and isoflavones had lower levels of βCTX (a protein to measure bone activity) compared to the women who just had supplements of soy. This suggests that the rate of bone loss was slower compared to the soy protein group. Women who took soy protein along with isoflavones also had a decreased risk of heart disease.
Lead author, Thozhukat Sathyapalan, said, “We found that soy protein and isoflavones are a safe and effective option for improving bone health in women during early menopause. The actions of soy appear to mimic that of conventional osteoporosis drugs.”
“The 66 mg of isoflavone that we use in this study is equivalent to eating an oriental diet, which is rich in soy foods. In contrast, we only get around 2-16 mg of isoflavone with the average western diet. Supplementing our food with isoflavones could lead to a significant decrease in the number of women being diagnosed with osteoporosis.”
The next step for researchers is to investigate long-term consequences of soy protein and isoflavones and reveal if these natural protein-packed foods have other alternative benefits too.