Supplementation with soy isoflavones could improve blood vessel endothelial cell function and reduce cardiovascular disease risk factors, according to a new study in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. Isoflavones supplementation has a valuable benefit on endothelial function.
“…exposure to soy isoflavones can modestly, but significantly, improve endothelial function” reported the researchers.
Soy foods have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, with recent evidence suggesting that isoflavones could reduce other cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, such as blood pressure and endothelial function.
Endothelial dysfunction signifies the early stages of heart disease and is a predictive marker for long-term CVD and mortality.
Flow-mediated dilation (FMD) of the brachial artery is used as an assessment tool for endothelial function. Impaired FMD response is a CVD risk factor and can precede clinically symptomatic CVD by many years.
The significant improvement in FMD observed in response to isolated isoflavone exposure is within the range deemed clinically relevant, “thereby indicating that exposure to isoflavone supplements may beneficially influence vascular health,” added the authors.
Researchers stated the key mechanism behind endothelial dysfunction involves the impaired release of nitric oxide (NO), causing blood vessels to constrict. Increased availability of isoflavone is suggested to increase NO production.
Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases Published online ahead of print
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Earlier this year Canadian researchers said that combining prebiotics and soy protein may lower cholesterol levels and boost heart health.
Consumption of a soy-food-based diet, providing soy protein and isoflavones in combination with 10 g per day of oligofructose-enriched inulin, led to significant reductions in levels of LDL cholesterol, according to results of a small randomized controlled crossover study published in Metabolism Clinical and Experimental.
The LDL reductions were only observed when soy and prebiotics were co-ingested, an observation that suggests “the provision of fermentable substrates may be one means to increase the effectiveness of soy foods as part of a dietary strategy for cardiovascular disease risk reduction,” wrote the researchers led by David Jenkins from the University of Toronto.
The association between soy protein and blood lipid levels led the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve a cardiovascular disease reduction claim for soybean protein in 1999.
Twenty-three people with an average age of 58 and average blood LDL levels of 4.18 millimoles per liter were recruited and randomly assigned to one of three groups: One group received a soy-food-containing diet, providing 30 g per day of soy protein and 61 mg per day of isoflavones, plus maltodextrin (placebo); the second group received the soy food diet, plus prebiotic; the final group received a low-fat dairy diet, plus the prebiotic. Two weeks separated each dietary intervention and 23 people completed all three phases.
The results showed that the joint consumption of soy and prebiotic produced greater reductions in LDL cholesterol of around 0.18 mmol/L and improved the ratio of LDL cholesterol to HDL cholesterol, compared with only the prebiotic phase.
HDL cholesterol levels were also significantly increased following the soy plus prebiotic diet, compared with only the prebiotic.
“These data support the lipid-lowering basis for the current FDA health claim for soy foods. They demonstrate how a non-significant (about three percent) LDL cholesterol reduction seen when soy was consumed alone can be converted to a significant (about five percent) LDL cholesterol reduction when soy was taken with a prebiotic,” wrote the researchers.
“We believe the present study therefore supports the value of soy as one of the few cholesterol-lowering foods, in the five percent reduction range, especially when given with fermentable substrates such as would be naturally present in diets that also contained viscous fibers to lower serum cholesterol,” they added.
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Metabolism Clinical and Experimental
Cholesterol is a necessary part of almost all metabolic processes in the body. Without it we could not survive.
In the early 80s there were some landmark studies linking cholesterol levels to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). Since then, all kinds of conclusions have been made as to what this means, what numbers are “normal”, and how those numbers change depending on your medical history.
Drug companies have invented a class of drugs called statins that lower plasma cholesterol levels from 10-50%, depending on the type of drug given and the amount. Statins are prescribed so frequently that they are now a multi-billion dollar industry.
Unfortunately, they also have side effects that can be devastating to some patients. In my practice, I have had to take many patients off their statin drugs because of side effects such as muscle pains, aching, and fatigue. In addition, the medical community has no long term studies (20-30 years) to see what the consequences of taking statins will be.
Here are some facts to keep in mind.
•There has been no evidence that having low cholesterol reduces the risk of first time heart attack. In fact, half of those with a first time heart attack have normal cholesterol levels. In a study of 10,000 people comparing those taking a statin to those that did not but maintained their weight and exercised, there was no difference in outcome of any kind.1 Did you get that?
•There is LDL (bad cholesterol) and HDL (good cholesterol). Statins lower both, and the problem is we want to see HDL increased. In fact, it seems that heart health results more from increasing HDL than lowering LDL. Drug companies are scrambling to find a drug that raises HDL, but so far without success. Only exercise and the B vitamin, niacin, have been proven to raise HDL.
My personal heart disease prevention plan looks like this:
1. High intensity exercise on a consistent & regular basis
2. A diet consisting of natural foods — high in fresh fruits and vegetables and low in trans fats
3. EPA-DHA Fish oil supplements, 3-4 grams daily (Metagenics EPA-DHA 720)
4. Multi-vitamin/mineral supplements (Metagenics Wellness Essentials for Men)
5. UltraMeal shake (2 scoops per day) by Metagenics
6. Coenzyme Q10 (Metagenics NanoCell Q10 200 mg daily)
7. Grass-fed beef to increase omega-3 fatty acids
8. Green tea extract for extra antioxidants (Metagenics Celepro)
Instead of rushing to take a statin, find a physician you trust and take some time to talk to him or her about your particular situation. You may find that with a proper diet, nutritional supplements, and moderate exercise, your risk of a heart attack from all causes can be dramatically reduced.
1. JAMA December 18, 2002;288:1998-3007,3042-3044.
2. NEJM November 27, 1997 Vol 337 number 22:1631-1633.