Benefits of Soy in Heart Disease: cholesterol lowering

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last updated: February 2006

SoybeanSoy milk lowers blood cholesterol and the risk of Heart Disease

The cholesterol lowering effect of soy milk and its role of heart disease was widely recognized in the mid 90s when the results of a meta-analysis of 38 clinical studies were published. The results demonstrated that a diet with significant soy protein reduces Total Cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (the "Bad" cholesterol) and Triglycerides. (Also Read: How to lower Triglycerides?) This confirmed the benefits of soy in heart disease management. As a result of these findings, in 1999, FDA authorized a health claim about the relationship between soy protein and Coronary Heart Disease (CHD) on labelling of foods containing soy protein.

To claim the health effects of soy, a soy food must contain:

  • 6.25g or more soy protein
  • Less than 3 g of fat (Low Fat)
  • Less than 1 g of Saturated fat
  • Less than 20mg of cholesterol

As soy milk is manufactured with whole soybeans with no additional fat added, it is also qualified for the health claim. A heart health claim will appear on soy milk or other qualified soy products.

Health Claim:
Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease. One serving of [name of produce] provides [amount] g of soy protein.

Recipe: 25g Soy Smoothie

1 cup Soy milk, Vanilla + 1 scoop Soy Protein Powder

Mix well in blender until soy protein powder is completely dissolved. Serve immediately

Recipe courtesy of

Soy milk Key Message: One glass of soy milk provides ~8g of soy protein!!! In addition, soy milk is rich in Isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogens that have structure similar to that of human estrogen. Numerous studies indicated that populations that consume soy products (as in Japan and China) have lower incidences of breast, colon and prostate cancers. More and more researchers now investigate the benefits of soy milk in cancer risk.

Soy products Available:

  • Calcium-fortified soy milk
  • Tofu
  • Soy nuts
  • Edamame
  • Tempeh
  • Miso
  • Other products such as soy patties, soy cheese, soy yogurt and breakfast cereal

Recent Studies

U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality analyzed various studies in 2005 and found that soy only had a modest effect on cholesterol levels. They found that eating a high amount of soy only caused a 3% reduction in LDL cholesterol levels.

Based on these recent studies, the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee no longer recommends eating soy to lower cholesterol. However, the AHA does consider soy products a healthy replacement for meats or other foods high in saturated fat and total fat. On the other hand, FDA is reviewing its policy on soy health claim.

So what should you do? Enjoy your soy foods like before. It may not lower cholesterol to an extent we originally thought, but it certainly does not harm our health!

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