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Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center Researchers Study Effectiveness of Soy Pills

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Could lowering your cholesterol be as simple as taking a pill containing the plant estrogens found in soy? Researchers at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center are conducting a research study to find out.

Researchers already know that the naturally occurring plant estrogens, called isoflavones, in soy protein make it effective at lowering cholesterol. That’s why the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the use of health claims on soy products. Now, researchers want to find out if removing the plant estrogens from the soy – and putting them in pill form – will also be effective.

“We believe that the isoflavones must be connected to the soy protein to be effective,” says Mara Vitolins, a study investigator. “But it’s important to find out for sure because people take isoflavone pills believing there are cholesterol lowering benefits.”

The study will involve 51 people who have low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or bad cholesterol, that is mildly or moderately elevated (140-200 mg/dL). They will attend a nutrition education session and will follow a heart-healthy diet for six weeks. Then, for 10 weeks at a time, they will take either isoflavone pills or a soy powder that can be mixed into beverages. Researchers will compare the effectiveness of both treatments at lowering cholesterol.

Soy protein – found in tofu and other products made from soy beans – has been linked to a variety of health benefits. People who live in countries were substantial amounts of soy are consumed have lower rates of heart disease and cancer. Participants in the study will take about 100 mg. of isoflavones per day, levels that are common in Asian diets.

In previous research at Wake Forest, it was shown that soy containing isoflavones was effective at lowering cholesterol. In a group of participants who took 62 milligrams of isoflavones in soy protein, cholesterol levels dropped by 10 percent in those patients whose LDL levels were moderately high. In the same group, total cholesterol dropped by 9 percent.

The current study is supported by the Centers for Disease Control. For more information, including eligibility requirements, call 336-713-5198.

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