Soy cuts cholesterol, helps kidney function in diabetics

October 22, 2003 in Diabetes & Diabetes Prevention, Heart Health, Nutrition Topics in the News

Soy cuts cholesterol, helps kidney function in diabetics

A diet rich in soy protein may reduce risk factors for heart and kidney disease in people with type 2 diabetes, the results of a small study suggest.

In the study, cholesterol levels dropped and kidney function improved in diabetics who substituted soy protein for some of the animal proteins they normally consumed.

But the researchers do not advise diabetics to cut out all animal proteins, but they substitute at least half of the animal protein they consume with soy protein. Cutting out all animal proteins may prevent people from getting all the essential amino acids they need.

Diabetic kidney disease has become the leading cause of kidney failure in Europe, Japan and the U.S. Eventually, about 40% of people with type 2 diabetes (which usually strikes in adulthood) develop kidney disease. Diabetic kidney disease results from the long-term effects of diabetes on tiny vessels within the kidney. Early signs include the build-up of proteins in the urine and impaired kidney function. Eventually, diabetic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure, at which point dialysis and kidney transplantation are the only treatment options.

The study included 14 people with type 2 diabetes who also had diabetic kidney disease. For the first 7 weeks of the study, participants consumed a diet in which 70% of protein calories came from animal sources and the rest from vegetable sources. After a four-week break, the volunteers switched to a diet of 35 percent soy protein, 35 percent animal protein and 30 percent vegetable protein.

Participants experienced a drop in total cholesterol and LDL ("bad") cholesterol after consuming the diet that was heavy on soy protein. Levels of another type of potentially harmful blood fats, triglycerides, also dropped after the soy diet.

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