Isoflavones, a type of phytochemical found in soybeans, chickpeas, legumes and clovers, can improve artery function in stroke patients, say researchers from Hong Kong.
In this new trial, 50 people at risk for stroke took a supplement containing 80 milligrams of isoflavones while 52 people with similar health concerns took a placebo.
Brachial artery blood flow was measured using an ultrasound applied to the forearms of the study participants. Eighty percent of the participants began the study with impaired blood flow which raised their risk of stroke.
After 12 weeks, those who were taking the isoflavone supplement saw an improvement in arterial blood flow while those on placebos did not.
Smokers who supplemented with isoflavones saw a slight improvement in blood flow as compared to smokers who didn't take the plant compound. People with Type 2 , a condition that raises heart disease and stroke risk, saw no change in blood flow when taking isoflavone supplements.
Improved arterial blood flow is especially important for people who have suffered an ischaemic stroke which is caused by blood clots or other obstructions in a blood vessel.
This is the first investigation to detail the beneficial effects of an isoflavone supplement on blood flow in brachial artery, the main blood vessel in the arm.
Eating a diet that's high soy foods has been shown to improved heart disease risk by lowering high blood cholesterol.
Other nutrition strategies to lower heart disease and stroke risk include eating more omega-3 fats (salmon, tuna, walnuts, flax) and soluble fibre (oats, psyllium, flax, apples, prunes) and less saturated and trans fats.
This study was published online in the September 2008 issue of the European Heart Journal.
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