Soybeans keep osteoporosis at bay among middle-aged women, a recent study conducted by British researchers at the University of Hull has revealed.
The findings were presented at the Society for Endocrinology’s BES 2015 conference, which was held in Edinburgh, between November 2 and 4.
Experts analyzed the effects of soy supplements on 200 women in early menopause when it comes to developing osteoporosis.
This condition, through which bone mineral density decreases, causing bones to become fragile and brittle, results in 9 million fractures worldwide on a yearly basis.
Frequently, it is triggered by a drop in estrogen levels, which normally protect the body from experiencing bone loss. This occurs especially during menopause, which is why middle-aged women are particularly at risk of suffering from this condition.
For a period of 6 months, some of the subjects included in the trial received daily doses of soy protein, while others were administered similar doses which also contained 66 mg of isoflavones.
These compounds are a class of phytoestrogens, which means that they cause estrogenic effects, and are derived from plants, such as soybeans, green beans, mung beans, chickpeas or peanuts.
They are also common in processed foods made out of legumes, such as tofu or miso, one of the most popular meals in Japan.
Researchers wanted to see if such substances that mimic the estrogen hormone would have any impact on bone health, and in order to test this hypothesis they measured the concentrations of two proteins in the blood: βCTX and P1NP.
It was discovered that volunteers who had taken supplements with isoflavones had lower levels of βCTX, one of the two protein markers signaling bone loss.
Therefore, thanks to these beneficial phytoestrogens, they faced lower risk of developing osteoporosis, and of suffering from debilitating fractures.
Moreover, they were also proven to be less vulnerable to cardiovascular disease, in comparison with participants who had taken simple soy protein.
Overall, lead researcher Thozhukat Sathyapalan believes that soybean supplements containing isoflavones are as effective as conventional drugs in countering the effects of menopause and preventing osteoporosis.
As he explained, such high quantities of isoflavones are normally encountered in Asian diets, which tend to favor soy products, whereas in Western nations daily consumption of these phytoestrogens is usually limited to 2-16 mg.
It appears that by including more isoflavones into their diet, menopausal women could be less exposed to bone loss, and therefore the incidence of osteoporosis could be reduced.
Now, experts are planning a follow-up study, on a larger scale and for an extended length of time, to test these promising preliminary findings.
Previous research has shown that other factors contributing to a lowered risk of bone fracture include regular physical exercise, as well as sun exposure and consumption of foods rich in vitamin D and calcium.
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