Older women with type 2 diabetes, who take a daily soy supplement for 12 weeks, show improvements in cholesterol and insulin levels, according to preliminary findings from a UK study.
These finding suggests that soy may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, in women after menopause. There were no side effects associated with the supplements.
Recent study findings showing that the long-term risk of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) outweighs the benefits in postmenopausal women left many wondering where to turn for help. While larger and longer-term studies are needed, the results offer some hope to postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes, who are up to four times more likely to die of heart disease than their healthy peers.
To investigate whether soy protein and isoflavones affected blood sugar levels and insulin, the researchers assigned 32 postmenopausal women with type 2 diabetes to take a soy supplement or an inactive pill (placebo) for 12 weeks. The dose of isoflavones--the antioxidant component of soy--was greater than amounts typically consumed in Asian countries, where rates of heart disease are lower and soy is a staple in the diet. The women took a daily supplement containing 30 grams of soy protein plus 132 milligrams of isoflavones.
The soy supplement was associated with an 8% reduction in fasting insulin and an improvement in long-term blood glucose control, probably through its effect on total and LDL cholesterol. Total cholesterol fell by about 4% and LDL cholesterol fell by 7%, 12 weeks after taking the daily soy supplement.
Chronically elevated levels of insulin, the body's key blood sugar-regulating hormone, raise the risk of both heart disease and exacerbate the effect of diabetes.
There was no effect on weight, blood pressure, HDL ("good") cholesterol, or triglycerides, a type of blood fat associated with heart disease. Similarly, the soy supplement did not appear to influence hormonal levels such as estrogen or testosterone.
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