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More Than Just a Hill of (Soy) Beans

December 9, 2010
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According to an article in the current issue of Journal of Nutrition Supplement, consensus has been reached among leading soy science experts over three main areas of debate: soy and women's health; soy and heart health; and soy and overall nutrient adequacy.

Leading experts agree that soyfoods in a balanced diet can have beneficial effects among the U.S. population.

For years, soy has been touted as a solid food option among health professionals, yet confusion remains within the public because, to date, there has been no clear consensus on the science of soy and its health benefits for Americans.

In order to find clarity and establish a consensus for soy's role in a healthy diet, a symposium on "Soy Summit: Exploration of the Nutrition and Health Effects of Whole Soy" was held earlier this fall in New York at Columbia University's Institute of Human Nutrition. Leading soy science experts convened to focus on the health benefits and risks associated with whole soy consumption in the form of edamame, canned soybeans, roasted soy nuts, tofu, soy milk and soy flour.

A review of the data suggests that there is no increased risk of breast cancer linked to moderate soy consumption.

Indeed, "Soy appears to be protective, and is associated with a lower risk of breast-cancer reoccurrence for women who have consumed soy throughout most of their life," said Leena Hilakivi-Clarke, professor of oncology at Georgetown University.

"At this point in time, the effects of soyfoods on breast-cancer reoccurrence in patients who have not previously consumed soy are not known," she added.

Also, "soy consumption can be part of a dietary pattern that reduces the risk of heart disease," said Wahida Karmally, director of nutrition at the Irving Institute for Clinical and Translational Research, who attended the summit.

Further, an analysis of the data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey -- a nationally representative poll designed to assess the health and nutrition status of adults and children in the United States -- found that soyfoods are nutrient rich, and adding one serving a day to the diet can provide important nutrients.

"Whole soy provides a number of important nutrients, including potassium, magnesium, fiber, antioxidants and calcium in certain calcium-fortified soyfoods and calcium-set tofu, which tend to be shortfall nutrients among the U.S. population," said Katherine Tucker, co-author of the paper.

The data concludes that greater inclusion of soy in the U.S. diet would likely be beneficial to health at the individual and population levels.

 

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