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Review supports soy's weight management potential

By Stephen Daniells , 21-Jan-2008

A new review taking in animal, human populations, and clinical trials supports the potential role of soy protein to reduce cholesterol levels, and aid weight loss.

According to the review, published recently in Obesity Reviews, the ingredients also have the added benefits of boosting bone health and aiding overall cardiovascular health. "Overall, the current data suggest that soyfoods are as good as other protein sources for promoting weight loss and there is a suggestive body of evidence that soyfoods may confer additional benefits, but results must be carefully interpreted and additional evidence is needed before making firm conclusions concerning soyfoods and weight loss," wrote lead author Mark Cope from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Soy proteins and soy peptides have received attention for their hypolipidaemic and hypocholesterolaemic properties, as well as their ability to lower blood pressure, improve arterial compliance and endothelial function, insulin resistance and weight loss in obesity. Over 300m adults are obese worldwide, according to latest statistics from the WHO and the International Obesity Task Force. About one-quarter of the US adult population is said to be obese, with rates in Western Europe on the rise although not yet at similar levels. Cope, in collaboration with David Allison from University of Alabama at Birmingham and John Erdman from the University of Illinois at Champagne-Urbana, collected results from in vitro, animal, epidemiologic, and clinical studies. The review, including results from eight human studies, found that weight loss was equivalent and, in some cases, equal when using soy protein, dairy milk meal replacements, beef or pork at equal calorie levels. Moreover, there was a suggestion that soy protein may decrease short-term appetite and calorie intake. They also reviewed the evidence concerning soy isoflavones aiding diabetes by stopping fat tissue build up and enhancing fat breakdown. While some evidence does exist of improved blood glucose and insulin levels as a result of consuming a soy-based diet, the data to date if limited. The review also supported reports of the cholesterol-lowering benefits of soy, and that soy may reduce bone loss in women. The reviewers said that, while the current evidence supports the potential of soy for weight management, the evidence is insufficient to conclude that "soyfoods cause weight loss or fat loss, but there is enough positive preliminary data to warrant more research in this area," they said. "The specific soy protein components and soy constituents that may cause these metabolic improvements are not known and it will require more extensive experimentation to determine which components and constituents are involved," added Cope, Erdman and Allison. Recently, researchers from Korea turned the spotlight onto black soy bean, largely overlooked in the West where yellow soy is a fixture. Black soy is a component of oriental medicine for diabetes and a variety of other indications, but a recent study, published in (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, doi:10.1002/jsfa.2808) proposed that it could play a greater role in efforts to curb the obesity crisis in the West. The retail market for weight management products was estimated by Euromonitor International to be worth US$0.93bn (€0.73) in Europe in 2005 and $3.93bn in the US, indicating that call to slim down or face the health consequences is being heeded by a slice of the overweight population at least. Source: Obesity Reviews doi: 10.1111/j.1467-789X.2007.00390.x "The potential role of soyfoods in weight and adiposity reduction: an evidence-based review" Authors: M.B. Cope, J.W. Erdman Jr., D.B. Allison

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