ST. LOUIS  (Food-News.net)  With nearly 2,000 scientific studies on soy published annually, the amount of new information on soy’s health effects could understandably overwhelm the typical consumer. However, consumers looking to make informed decisions about their diet, whether to lower cholesterol or decrease breast cancer risk, received a major boost this week, as the foremost soy nutrition researchers gathered from around the world to present their latest findings at the 9th International Soy Symposium in Washington, DC. The symposium is co-sponsored by the United Soybean Board, representing the nation’s soybean farmers.

“Research presented at the symposium resolves some of the most hotly debated and contentious issues among soy scientists,” said event organizer Mark Messina, Ph.D., MS, of Loma Linda University. “As a result, the public receives the most definitive guidance to date regarding soy intake by breast cancer patients and recommendations for lowering blood cholesterol levels and alleviating menopausal hot flashes.”

Soy and Breast Cancer

It’s fitting to highlight new research on soy and breast cancer at the event, as October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and a woman dies of breast cancer every 69 seconds, according to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure organization. With statistics like these in mind, it’s not surprising that one of the more active research areas in the soy field is the relationship between soy and breast cancer.

Dr. Mary Hardy, Medical Director of the UCLA Center for Integrative Oncology, presented exciting evidence indicating that modest soy consumption during adolescence reduces risk of breast cancer later in life. Dr. Hardy stated that epidemiologic research shows soy consumption actually improves the prognosis, or likely outcome, of breast cancer patients, and clinical data demonstrates the safety of soy for breast cancer patients.  If research studies continue to support the existing evidence, Dr. Hardy says oncologists will likely soon move from advising their patients not to consume soy to actively recommending it be part of their diet.

Soy and Cholesterol

How can you reduce your risk of heart disease? Consumers can control some risk factors including dietary choices. Scientists first studied the cholesterol-lowering effects of soy protein in the early 1960s. In 1999, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim stating that 25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce risk of coronary heart disease, based on the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy protein.

At the 9th International Soy Symposium, Dr. David Jenkins of the University of Toronto discussed the direct and indirect benefit of soy consumption for lowering cholesterol. The direct benefit, according to Dr. Jenkins is that soy protein by itself lowers blood cholesterol by more than 4 percent. The indirect benefit comes from the decrease in cholesterol that occurs when soyfoods displace dietary protein sources higher in saturated fat, says Dr. Jenkins. He estimates that the combined benefit can, in theory, reduce risk of heart disease by at least 10 percent.

Soy and Menopause

Hot flashes occur in more than half of all women and are severe in about 10 to 15 percent of them. Naturally-occurring plant compounds found in soy, called isoflavones, have been under study for their ability to alleviate hot flashes for 15 years.

University of Minnesota researcher Dr. Mindy Kurzer presented findings from a systematic review and meta-analysis of 18 placebo-controlled clinical studies. Dr. Kurzer found that soybean isoflavones significantly reduce both the frequency and severity of hot flashes. This new research further solidifies soy isoflavones as an alternative to hormone replacement therapy for the alleviation of menopausal symptoms.

Soy and Equol

In 2002, pioneering soy scientist Dr. Kenneth D.R. Setchell suggested that certain people might benefit from consuming soy more than others. According to Setchell, those individuals who possessed the intestinal bacterial capable of converting the soybean isoflavone daidzein into equol were the ones to benefit most. Dr. Takeshi Aso, Professor Emeritus of Tokyo Medical and Dental University, presented results of a new clinical study showing that equol alleviates hot flashes.

Incorporate the Power of Soy into Your Diet

Results from the 9th International Soy Symposium give consumers more reason than ever to incorporate soy into their diet – from soynuts to soymilk and soybeans to soybean oil, there are many ways to add soy to a healthy diet alongside lean meat, whole grains and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Whip up edamame hummus as an appetizer, spruce up your salad with a soybean oil-based dressing, or top pasta or homemade pizza with shelled edamame. Visit SoyConnection.com/Recipes for more ideas and inspiration.

“U.S. soybean farmers support the Symposium because we are proud to produce one of the healthiest crops in the world, which is especially important as consumers realize the need to improve the nutritional content of the foods they eat,” says Steve Poole, Director of Public Relations and Nutrition Communication for the United Soybean Board. “According to our 2010 Consumer Attitudes about Nutrition study, 84 percent of consumers view soy as healthy. With the new studies presented at the 9th Soy Symposium, we anticipate the continuation of this upward trend of consumers seeking out soy products.”

About the 9th International Soy Symposium

Since 1994, the Symposium has become a central meeting ground for researchers investigating the health effects of soyfoods and soybean components. An impressive group of well-respected researchers come together to present the latest studies on the role soy plays in preventing and treating chronic disease.

About USB

The United Soybean Board is a farmer-led organization comprised of 68 farmer-directors who oversee the investments of the soybean checkoff on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers. For additional health information and recipes to put the findings into practice, visit USB’s SoyConnection.com.



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