Soybean isoflavones improve cardiovascular risk factors without affecting the reproductive system of peripubertal rhesus monkeys.


Anthony MS, Clarkson TB, Hughes CL Jr




J Nutr


Although the beneficial effects of dietary soybean protein compared with animal proteins on plasma lipids, lipoproteins and atherosclerosis have been known for about 50 years, it has been uncertain whether these effects are due to its amino acid concentrations or other components in soybeans. To assess the effect of soybean protein's alcohol-extractable components (including the isoflavonic phytoestrogens genistein and daidzein) on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations and to establish its lack of effect on the reproductive system, we fed 27 peripubertal male and female rhesus monkeys moderately atherogenic diets in which the source of dietary protein was a soy isolate (20% by weight), either containing phytoestrogens (also termed isoflavones) or with the phytoestrogens removed by alcohol extraction. The study was a crossover design with each period lasting for 6 mo. The phytoestrogen-intact soy protein (compared with the alcohol-extracted soy protein) had favorable effects on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations, specifically by significantly reducing LDL+VLDL cholesterol concentrations in both males and females (approximately 30-40% lower), significantly increasing high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLC) concentrations for females (approximately 15% higher) and significantly lowering total plasma cholesterol (TPC):HDLC ratios (approximately 20% lower for males and 50% lower for females). The phytoestrogens had no adverse effects on the reproductive systems of either the males or females, as evaluated by reproductive hormone concentrations and organ weights at necropsy. Thus, the isoflavones in soy protein improve cardiovascular disease risk factors without apparent deleterious effects on the reproductive system of peripubertal rhesus monkeys.