Researchers explained that bone loss and osteoporosis usually emerge in post-menopausal years. The main reason behind bone troubles in older women is deficiency in the sex hormone oestrogen, which shields a woman’s body against bone damage.
Osteoporosis patients have brittle and fragile bones and a higher risk of bone fracture. About nine million women in the U.S. face fracture because of tissue loss on a yearly basis.
Study authors explained that soybeans contain isoflavones, or compounds that are very similar to oestrogen and can trigger similar health benefits in women. Past studies had also showed that isoflavones can prevent menopausal women’s bones from becoming brittle just like the natural hormone does.
The findings were first unveiled at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual meeting in Edinburgh, Scotland.
In their research, a team of scientists at the University of Hull in England assessed the bone health of 200 menopausal women and asked them to take either a soy supplement or a soy protein pill which contained 66 mg of isoflavones.
Study participants took the pills for half a year. Towards the end of the trial, scientists measured improvements in the women’s bone density through BCTX and P1NP proteins in their bloodstream.
High BCTX levels mean that bone loss within the body is happening at an increased pace. After the six-month period, researchers found that women who took more isoflavones had lower levels of the protein than their peers who ate soy alone. Women who took isoflavone-rich soy protein supplements also had a lower risk of heart disease and stroke than participants on a soy diet.
Thozhukat Sathyapalan, lead researcher involved in the study, said the findings clearly suggested that isoflavones and soy protein shield bones against damage in early menopause. The researcher added that soy seems to ‘mimic’ the health benefits brought by traditional osteoporosis drugs.
Researchers noted that they gave study participants the daily amount of isoflavone (66 mg) that the women would have got from an oriental diet, which is rich in soy foods such as vegetable oils, sauces, soups and soybean curd. In the Western world, people get from their daily diets only 2 to 16 mg of isoflavones.
Researchers hope that soybean supplementation could dramatically decrease osteoporosis diagnoses among menopausal women. As a follow-up, the team plans to further explore other health benefits soy protein and overall soy supplementation may bring on the long run.
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