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Br J Nutr. 2012 Sep;108(5):810-9. doi: 10.1017/S0007114512001900. Epub 2012 Jul 3.

Can breast cancer patients use soyafoods to help reduce risk of CHD?

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School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA.


Over the past 20 years, the popularity of soyafoods has increased in part because of research suggesting that these foods convey health benefits independent of their nutrient content. For example, in 1999, the US Food and Drug Administration approved a health-claim for soyafoods and CHD based on the hypocholesterolaemic effects of soya protein. However, soyafoods have become controversial in recent years because of concerns that their uniquely rich phyto-oestrogen (isoflavone) content may cause untoward effects in some individuals. Most notable in this regard is the concern that soyafoods are contraindicated for breast cancer patients and women at high risk of developing this disease. Furthermore, the hypocholesterolaemic effects of soya protein have been challenged. However, the results of recently published meta-analyses indicate that soya protein directly lowers circulating LDL-cholesterol levels by approximately 4 %. There is also intriguing evidence that soyafoods reduce CHD risk independent of their effects on lipid levels. In regard to the breast cancer controversy, recently published clinical and epidemiological data do not support observations in rodents that soyabean isoflavones increase breast cancer risk. In postmenopausal women, isoflavone exposure does not adversely affect breast tissue density or breast cell proliferation. Furthermore, both US and Chinese prospective epidemiological studies show that post-diagnosis soya consumption is associated with an improved prognosis. Therefore, soyafoods should be considered by women as healthy foods to include in diets aimed at reducing the risk of CHD regardless of their breast cancer status.

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