A new study that has been published in Menopause determined that soy may help women relieve symptoms caused by menopause. Experts suggest that it is still not clear whether or not soy can have beneficial effects on the heart and bones. Researcher Wulf Utian, MD, PhD, ScD, a consultant in women's health and executive director emeritus of the North American Menopause Society, claims that the study clearly demonstrates what the positive effects are if women consume soy based products, regarding symptoms of menopause. Experts determined the results of this study during a two-day symposium to evaluate the health benefits of soy, in women.
In this review, a group of experts assessed and evaluated the beneficial effects of soy to manage symptoms from menopause, risks for breast cancer, endometrial cancer, hardening of arteries, bone loss, and cognitive abilities. Hundreds of studies evaluating the effects of soy from foods and supplements were reviewed for this study. The health benefits of soy were attributed to the presence of isoflavones, the plant-estrogens of estrogen-like compounds. These compounds are now believed to have beneficial antioxidant properties too.
The review revealed that:
- Soy provides moderate relief from symptoms caused by menopause.
- Supplements that contain a higher proportion of isoflavones, known as genistein, provide more benefits than other products.
- Foods containing high amounts of soy were associated with a lower risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer.
- Utian said that there is not enough evidence to motivate any recommendations for the use of soy and its connection to diminish the risk for developing osteoporosis.
- Soy improved cognitive functions in women under the age of 65-years-old. However, it has no impact on women older than 65-years-old.
To receive maximum benefits, one should consume approximately 50 mg of isoflavones per day. Utian advises people to take soy supplements with higher proportions of genistein, as they can provide more benefits. The body can absorb soy better when it is in the form of food rather than supplements. Soybeans, soy flour, soy protein isolate, and miso soup are all rich sources of isoflavones.
Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis, reported that the study supports the benefits of soy based foods on an individual's health. Diekman says that studies focusing on how soy foods differ from supplements in terms of health are also needed.