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Nutr Clin Care. 2002 Nov-Dec;5(6):272-82.

Soy foods and soybean isoflavones and menopausal health.

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Nutrition Matters, Inc., Port Townsend, Washington, USA.


Soybeans are a natural dietary source of isoflavones, which have estrogen-like properties. Therefore, it is worthwhile to consider the implications for soy of the recently published findings of the Heart and Estrogen/Progestin Replacement Study (HERS) I/II and the Women's Health Initiative (WHI). The WHI found coronary heart disease (CHD) risk to be increased in women receiving hormone replacement therapy, and both studies found increases in venous thromboembolic disease in such women. Additionally, stroke and breast cancer risk were increased in the WHI, although risk of colorectal cancer and fracture was decreased. Because research suggests that it is the combination of estrogen plus progestin, and not estrogen alone, that increases breast cancer risk, soy seems unlikely to increase risk because it has no progestin activity. Similarly, there is no evidence to suggest that soy will increase venous thromboembolic disease or stroke; however, only limited data are available in this area. There are promising data suggesting that soy may decrease CHD risk, although studies conducted thus far have examined only markers of risk and not actual CHD events. Similarly, short-term studies generally suggest that soy reduces bone loss in postmenopausal women; however, such effects have been noted primarily only at the spine, and longer-term studies are needed. Finally, very limited human research suggests that soy may decrease colon cancer risk, but this is highly speculative. The results of HERS I/II and WHI suggest that soy may have some of the advantages, but not the disadvantages, of combined hormone replacement therapy (at least with respect to the specific hormones and doses used in the HERS I/II and WHI), but that large, long-term intervention studies examining disease outcome are needed before definitive conclusions can be drawn. Nevertheless, the evidence warrants recommendations that menopausal women include soy in their diets.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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