A diet rich in soy may help reduce heart health risk in postmenopausal women, according to a new study published online in Menopause, the journal of the North American Menopause Society.
Researchers at Wake Forest University School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, N.C., reached those conclusions based on their feeding study of cynomolgus monkeys before and after surgical menopause, according to a news release. They fed premenopausal monkeys a diet with protein derived mainly from animal sources or a diet with protein from high-isoflavone soybeans. After having their ovaries removed, mimicking human menopause, one group of monkeys continued to eat a soy diet, another switched from animal protein to soy, a third group stuck with animal protein, and a fourth switched from animal protein to soy, according to the release.
After 34 months, cholesterol levels were good in the monkeys who ate soy before and after menopause, and for those that switched to a soy protein diet after menopause, cholesterol levels improved significantly (with lower total LDL, and VLDL and higher HDL), according to the release.
As far as the total amount of atherosclerosis was concerned, monkeys eating a lifelong soy diet showed a much lower proportion of complicated plaque in the arteries than the other monkeys. For those that had small plaques in the arteries at the time of menopause, the switch to soy after menopause markedly reduced the progression of plaque in the arteries, according to the release.
The findings were similar to those from the Womens Isoflavone Soy Health clinical trial on atherosclerosis in women after menopause. The animal study modeled the effects a soy diet or soy supplements may have on womens diets and heart health before menopause or very early after menopause, when artery plaques still may be small, according to the release.
This study underscores how important it is for women to get into the best cardiovascular shape they can before menopause, Margery Gass, MD, executive director of the North American Menopause Society, said in the release. The healthy habits they start then will carry them through the years to come.