Small Changes Give Low Cholesterol Diet Added Punch
The study participants were divided into two groups. Frozen dinners, veggie burgers and wieners, and vegetarian cold cuts were among the treatment group's choices. Soluble-fiber food choices consisted of dried soups and breakfast cereals containing oat, barley, and legumes. On the comparison group's list: typical low-fat items such as skim-milk yogurt, low-fat cheese, and cottage cheese, and a number of low-fat, low-soluble-fiber microwavable frozen foods.
At the end of the eight-week study, the treatment group's cholesterol levels showed significantly higher HDL cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol was also significantly reduced. While one woman was on hormone replacement therapy and one man was being treated with a cholesterol-lowering medication, neither responded differently from the other subjects, says Jenkins.
While describing this study as "a modest attempt at introducing soy foods into the diet," Jenkins says that even higher dietary levels of soy, water-soluble fiber -- and other new options like cholesterol-lowering margarines -- could bring the 15-20% reductions possible with medications.
Providing objective commentary, William Wong, PhD, research scientist at Children's Nutrition Research Center in Houston, tells WebMD, "The findings are very interesting. ... But at this time, you cannot tell if it was the soy protein or the soluble fiber [that created their results]. Especially since the amount of soy protein they were given was 14 grams a day, which was pretty small. To my knowledge, the lowest amount [of soy protein] to be shown effective is about 20 grams. I wish they had put one group on soluble fiber, one group on soy protein, then combined the two. That would be a very, very interesting study."
Erica Frank, MD, lipid researcher at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, tells WebMD, "They did a really good job. ... It's pretty fair to say that the results were attributable to soy. Putting this in the context of other studies, it's pretty clear this is another vote for plant-based diets and soy. ... People need suggestions for good-tasting soy products ... soy milk, soy nuts, smoked tofu is fabulous. It's easy to marinate tofu, sprinkle soy sauce on it and marinate it for an hour and it actually tastes pretty good."