Over the years, soy has garnered a lot of attention for its potential role in reducing blood cholesterol. In 1995, a review of 38 clinical trials found that, on average, soy protein reduced total cholesterol by over 9 percent and LDL cholesterol by nearly 13 percent. However, the response to soy protein depended on how high the blood-cholesterol level was at the start. People with total cholesterol levels greater than 335 mg/dL benefited the most, while those with cholesterol levels less than 260 mg/dL showed only a modest decrease in their cholesterol levels.
In 1999, based on the research to date, the Food and Drug Administration approved products containing at least 6.25 g of soy protein per serving to claim that diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 g of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
But not all the research over the past ten years has found that soy protein lowers cholesterol. In 2006, the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee reviewed 22 studies on soy protein and found that a very large amount of soy protein -- in fact, about half the total daily protein usually consumed in a day -- lowered cholesterol by only approximately 3 percent. In reviewing 19 studies on isoflavones, a component of soy, the Committee found no reduction in LDL cholesterol.
The beneficial effects of soy may come from replacing animal products that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol with soy products, such as tofu, soy nuts, and soy burgers, which are low in saturated fat and higher in polyunsaturated fat, fiber, and nutrients.
To find out more information about reducing cholesterol, see:
- Foods That Lower Cholesterol: Many foods and supplements are proven to have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels. Learn which foods can help lower your cholesterol and your risk of heart disease.
- Can Vitamins Lower Cholesterol?: Can a vitamin regimen really help lower cholesterol? Learn just how effective vitamin therapy can be.
- Low Cholesterol Diet: Eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is the best way to reduce your cholesterol. Explore the dietary choices that can help you lower your cholesterol.
- How Cholesterol Works: Cholesterol is vital to human life. Learn what cholesterol is, why we need it, and how too much can be deadly.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAdrienne Forman, M.S., R.D., is a consultant and freelance writer, specializing in nutrition and health communications. She is the editor of Shape Up America! newsletter, an online publication, and has been a contributing editor of Environmental Nutrition newsletter for the past 14 years. Adrienne is a former Senior Nutritionist at Weight Watchers International, where she was instrumental in creating multiple weight-loss programs, including their popular Points® program.
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