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Soy May Not Cut LDL ('Bad') Cholesterol

Soy Protein Did Not Reduce LDL Cholesterol in Study of Adults With Mildly High Cholesterol
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 8, 2008 -- Soy foods may not do as much to cut your LDL ("bad") cholesterol as you might hope.

A new study shows that eating soy protein didn't cut LDL cholesterol levels in adults with mildly high cholesterol levels. The findings appear in the August edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

The FDA allows foods containing at least 6.25 grams of soy protein to carry a health claim stating that consuming 25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

The new study, conducted in Australia, tested the impact on cholesterol from eating that much soy protein in 90 adults with borderline high cholesterol levels who weren't soy eaters.

How high was their cholesterol? On average, their total cholesterol was 217 and their LDL cholesterol was 139 when the study began. Ideally, total cholesterol should be under 200 and LDL under 130.

For six weeks, participants ate 24 grams of soy protein per day, split into three daily servings. They got their soy protein in drinks, custard, cookies, snack bars, and pasta supplied by the researchers.

For comparison, participants ate half as much soy protein for another six weeks, and then no soy protein for a final six-week period. They took blood tests before and after each six-week diet.

Cholesterol Findings

While on the higher-dose soy protein diet, participants had a 3% drop in their total cholesterol and a slight drop in their LDL cholesterol. And although their LDL cholesterol dipped slightly, that change wasn't statistically significant, meaning that it might have been due to chance.

The 3% drop in total cholesterol may have been because they were eating less saturated fat, note the researchers, who included graduate student Alicia Thorp of the University of South Australia.

Thorp's team also went one step further and checked whether people's ability to digest certain soy nutrients into a compound called equol made any difference. It didn't.

Opposing Views

WebMD asked Alice Lichtenstein, DSc, who is the Stanley N. Gershoff Professor of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Boston, and Nancy Chapman, RD, MPH, executive director of the Soyfoods Association of North America, to review the study.

The study is "excellent" and in line with findings from her own lab and recent work by other researchers, Lichtenstein tells WebMD.

In a statement emailed to WebMD, Chapman says the study "confirms that soy foods lower total cholesterol even though the drop in LDL cholesterol wasn't significant. She points out that the participants' LDL levels were "nearly" normal when the study started, and that the study might not have picked up on small changes in LDL cholesterol.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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