Newswise — According to the December 2010 Journal of Nutrition Supplement titled, “Soy Summit: Exploration of the Nutrition and Health Effects of Whole Soy,” consensus has been reached among leading soy science experts surrounding three main areas of debate: soy and women’s health, soy and heart health, and soy and overall nutrient adequacy. Leading soy experts agree that including soyfoods in a balanced diet will have beneficial effects and improve nutrient intake among the U.S. population.
For years, soy has been touted as a healthy food option among health professionals, yet confusion remains within the public because, to date, there has been no clear consensus on the science of soy and its health benefits for Americans.
In order to find clarity and establish a consensus for soy’s role in a healthy diet, a symposium titled “Soy Summit: Exploration of the Nutrition and Health Effects of Whole Soy” was held September 21-22, 2009 in New York City at Columbia University’s Institute of Human Nutrition.1 Leading soy science experts convened to focus on the health benefits and risks associated with whole soy consumption, review past and current research, and assess how increasing whole soy consumption in the United States would affect dietary patterns. Whole soy, as opposed to isolated soy protein, is defined as the form of soyfoods in which the whole soybean and/or its nutrients are kept intact. Whole soy forms include soybeans (edamame or canned soybeans), roasted soy nuts, tofu, soy milk and soy flour.
Following are the findings from each key area discussed:
Soy and Women’s Health: Breast Cancer and Reproductive Health
A review of data suggests that there is no increased risk of breast cancer linked to moderate soy consumption.2 “Soy appears to be protective and is associated with a lower risk of breast cancer reoccurrence for women who have consumed soy throughout most of their life,” said Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, PhD, professor of oncology at Georgetown University. “At this point in time, the effects of soyfoods on breast cancer reoccurrence in patients who have not previously consumed soy are not known.” The American Cancer Society says that up to three servings a day of soyfoods is safe for women at risk for or with a history of breast cancer.
In addition, studies conducted to date suggest that a diet of one to two servings of soy daily does not pose a harmful effect on ovaries and ovulation.3 The level of phytoestrogens (plant-based compounds that are similar, but not identical to, and weaker than human estrogen) typically found in soyfoods pose minimal risk for adult females.
Soy and Heart Health
A review of the data indicates that 2-6 daily servings of soyfoods, based on 20-133 grams of soy protein per day, can result in a 7-10 percent reduction in LDL-cholesterol.4 “Soy consumption can be part of a dietary pattern that reduces the risk of heart disease,” said Wahida Karmally, DrPH, RD, CDE, CLS, FNLA, director of nutrition at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, who was in attendance at the Summit. According to the Food and Drug Administration, incorporating 25 grams of soy protein per day as part of a balanced diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.
Soy and Nutrient Adequacy
An analysis of the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES 2003-2004), a nationally representative survey designed to assess the health and nutrition status of adults and children in the United States, found that soyfoods are nutrient rich and adding one serving a day to the diet can provide important nutrients.5
“Whole soy provides a number of important nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, fiber, antioxidants and calcium in certain calcium-fortified soyfoods and calcium-set tofu, which tend to be shortfall nutrients among the U.S. population,” said Katherine Tucker, PhD, co-author of the paper, “Simulation with Soy Replacement Showed That Increased Soy Intake Could Contribute to Improved Nutrient Intake Profiles in the U.S. Population.” The data concludes that greater inclusion of soy in the U.S. diet would likely be beneficial to health at the individual and population levels.
Soybeans have more protein than any other bean and are the only plant-based protein source that contain all nine essential amino acids, making them a source of high-quality, complete protein. Consuming soyfoods supports the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 Technical Report, which recommends a more plant-based diet.6
For those unfamiliar with soyfoods and interested in improving their overall diet quality and for those moving towards a more plant-based diet, a reasonable goal should be to consume two servings of whole soy foods a day (a total of 15-20 g soy protein), representing 20-25 percent of total dietary protein intake and remaining consistent with dietetic principles of diversity and moderation.7 All soy comes from soybeans, which are naturally grown beans similar in size to a pea. Whole soy foods are minimally processed to keep soy’s naturally occurring nutrients intact. Suggested ways to incorporate one serving of whole soy into a healthy diet include: 1/2 cup edamame, 1/2 cup canned soybeans, 2 SOYJOY bars, 1/2 cup tofu, and 1/4 cup dry roasted soybeans.
The Summit was funded through an unrestricted educational grant from Pharmavite, LLC.1
ABOUT PHARMAVITE, LLC
For almost 40 years, Pharmavite has earned and maintained the trust of healthcare professionals, consumers, and retailers by manufacturing safe, effective and science-based products that contribute to optimal health and overall wellness. As a provider of great-tasting, nutritious products, like SOYJOY, Pharmavite is dedicated to helping people lead healthier lives through nutrition education and awareness. (Pharmavite.com, SOYJOY.com)
1 Akabas, S. Preface to Journal Supplement “Soy Summit: Exploration of the Nutrition and Health Effects of Whole Soy” J. Nutr.
2 Hilakivi-Clarke, L., Andrade, J., Helferich, W. Is Soy Consumption Good or Bad for the Breast? J. Nutr. 2010;140: 2326S- 2334S.
3 Jefferson, W. Adult Ovarian Function Can Be Affected by High Levels of Soy. J. Nutr. 2010;140: 2322S-2325S.
4 Jenkins DJ, Mirrahimi A., Srichaikul K, Berryman CE, Wang L, Carleton A, Abdulnour S, Sievenpiper JL, Kendall CW, Kris-Etherton PM. Soy Protein Reduces Serum Cholesterol by Both Intrinsic and Food Displacement Mechanisms. J.Nutr. 2010;140: 2303S-2311S.
5 Tucker, K., Qiao, N., Maras, J. Simulation with Soy Replacement Showed That Increased Soy Intake Could Contribute to Improved Nutrient Intake Profiles in the U.S. Population. J. Nutr. 2010;140: 2296S- 2301S.
6 Report of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.
7 Messina, M. Insights Gained from 20 Years of Soy Research. J.Nutr. 2010;140: 2289S-2295S.