Soy protein, isoflavones and cardiovascular disease risk.


Lichtenstein AH




J Nutr


Since the early 1940s, scientists have examined the effect of soy protein on blood cholesterol concentrations. Although studies in animals have suggested that soy protein lowers blood cholesterol concentrations, similar studies in humans have yielded less consistent results. The presence or absence of the soybean isoflavone fraction may be a confounding factor. This fraction, consisting primarily of genistein, daidzein and glycetein, has been shown to have a hypocholesterolemic effect in animals and humans. Potential mechanisms by which soy protein and/or isoflavones induce lowering of blood cholesterol concentrations include thyroid status, bile acid balance and the estrogenic effects of genistein and daidzein. Some studies have suggested that isoflavones exhibit antioxidant properties and have favorable effects on arterial compliance. In addition to the aforementioned potential beneficial effects, the increased consumption of products containing soy protein may displace foods relatively high in saturated fat and cholesterol from the diet and hence have an indirect blood cholesterol-lowering effect.