Soy isoflavones improve plasma lipids in normocholesterolemic and mildly hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women

K E Wangen, A M Duncan, X Xu, M S Kurzer
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2001, 73 (2): 225-31

BACKGROUND: Soy-protein consumption is known to reduce plasma total and LDL cholesterol concentrations. However, the responsible soy component or components and the magnitude of effects in normocholesterolemic and mildly hypercholesterolemic subjects are unclear.

OBJECTIVE: The present study examined the effects of soy isoflavone consumption on plasma concentrations of triacylglycerol, apolipoprotein (apo) A-I, apo B, lipoprotein(a), and total, LDL, and HDL cholesterol and on LDL peak particle diameter in normocholesterolemic and mildly hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women.

DESIGN: In a randomized crossover trial, fasting plasma samples were obtained from 18 postmenopausal women throughout three 93-d periods of daily isolated soy protein (ISP) consumption providing an average of 7.1 +/- 1.1 (control), 65 +/- 11 (low isoflavone), or 132 +/- 22 (high isoflavone) mg isoflavones/d.

RESULTS: Compared with values measured during the control diet, the plasma LDL cholesterol concentration was 6.5% lower (P < 0.02) during the high-isoflavone diet and the ratio of LDL to HDL cholesterol was 8.5% and 7.7% lower during the low- and high-isoflavone diets, respectively (P < 0.02). Isoflavone consumption did not significantly affect plasma concentrations of total or HDL cholesterol, triacylglycerol, apo A-I, apo B, or lipoprotein(a) or the LDL peak particle diameter.

CONCLUSIONS: Consumption of isoflavones as a constituent of ISP resulted in small but significant improvements in the lipid profile in normocholesterolemic and mildly hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women. Although the effects were small, it is possible that isoflavones may contribute to a lower risk of coronary heart disease if consumed over many years in conjunction with other lipid-lowering strategies.

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