A diet rich in soy protein and isoflavones can protect menopausal women from bone weakening and osteoporosis, says a new study.
Osteoporosis is a common condition where bones become brittle and fragile from tissue loss, causing 9 million fractures worldwide every year. In women, bone loss occurs most quickly in the years immediately after menopause because they produce less of the sex hormone estrogen, which protects against bone loss.
‘Supplementation of soy protein with isoflavones lowered the levels of betaCTX that indicates reduced rate of bone loss and lowered risk of developing osteoporosis.’
Soybean foods contain chemicals known as isoflavones that are similar in structure to estrogen and so could theoretically protect women against osteoporosis by mimicking the action of estrogen.
In this study, researchers from the University of Hull gave two hundred women in early menopause a daily supplement containing soy protein with 66mg of isoflavones or a supplement with soy protein alone for six months. The researchers investigated changes in the women's bone activity by measuring certain proteins (betaCTX and P1NP) in their blood.
They found that the women on the soy diet with isoflavones had significantly lower levels of betaCTX than the women on soy alone, suggesting that their rate of bone loss was slowing down and lowering their risk of developing osteoporosis. Women taking soy protein with isoflavones were also found to have decreased risk of cardiovascular disease than those taking soy alone.
Lead author of the study Thozhukat Sathyapalan said "Supplementing our food with isoflavones could lead to a significant decrease in the number of women being diagnosed with osteoporosis."
Researchers next aim to investigate the long-term health consequences of using soy protein and isoflavones supplements, and whether it may also have benefits beyond bone health.
The results have been presented at the Society for Endocrinology annual conference in Edinburgh.