Eating soybeans can lower cholesterol, research finds.
Soybeans also contain lecithins, isoflavones and fiber, which have cardiovascular benefits.
Soy protein has the ability to reduce ‘bad’ (LDL) cholesterol by a small amount.
Statistical analysis of 41 studies shows that a daily intake of 25 grams of soy protein can lower LDL cholesterol by 4% within 6 weeks.
Accumulation of LDL cholesterol in the arteries can cause blockages and a sudden blood clot, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. David Jenkins, the lead author of this study, said:
“When one adds the displacement of high saturated fat and cholesterol-rich meats to a diet that includes soy, the reduction of cholesterol could be greater.”
Soybeans are rich in fibres and phytochemicals, such as isoflavones, phytosterols and lecithins, which independently or together have unique health benefits.
Isoflavones are associated with a reduction in the incidence cardiovascular disease (CVD) in menopause women and menopausal symptoms by mimicking the effect of a primary female sex hormone called estrogen.
Between 25 and 375 mg daily of soy isoflavones for 1–12 months has been shown to lower blood pressure.
Soy lecithins have a role in lipid metabolism by improving the break down of fat or using storage of fats in cells for energy.
Soy fibers have been shown to improve weight loss in overweight and obese adults after a 12-week period.
Studies have also found that soy protein has anti-inflammatory effects, possibly due to the ability of amino acids in soy protein to reduce inflammation.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to remove soy from its heart-healthy food health claims list.
However, the studies above confirm the effect of soy protein on lowering LDL cholesterol.
Dr. David Jenkins, the lead author of study conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, said:
“The existing data and our analysis of it suggest soy protein contributes to heart health.
We hope the public will continue to consider plant-based diets as a healthy option.”
About the author
Mina Dean is a Nutritionist and Food Scientist. She holds a BSc in Human Nutrition and an MSc in Food Science.