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Benefits of Soy: The Scorecard continued...

Although evidence was lacking for many of soy's proposed benefits, Utian says that "the good news is that we didn't show it carries any significant risk."

The symposium and report were supported by unrestricted grants from Otsuka Pharmaceutical, Pharmavite LLC, and the Allmen Foundation.

Utian reports consultant or advisory board work for Bayer, Bene Therapeutics, Bionovo, Cleveland Clinic Foundation Innovations Center, Hygeia (Orcas Therapeutics), Lupin, Merck, Novogyne, Pfizer, Pharmavite, and Teva Women's Health. Other experts in the working group report consultant work for the United Soybean Board, food companies, and pharmaceutical firms.

Benefits of Soy: Practical Matters

For menopausal symptoms, the recommended starting dose is 50 mg of total isoflavones a day, the researchers write.

A trial of 12 weeks is typically long enough to see if it works.

Because they found more potential benefits from supplements with higher proportions of genistein or increased in S(-)-equol, Utian advises people to look for products with those substances.

Few American women are capable of converting the daidzen to the S(-)-equol, he says.

Getting soy from foods is encouraged, too. Soybeans, including edamame, are high in isoflavones. Soy flour, soy protein isolate, and miso soup also have high isoflavone content.

Benefits of Soy: Perspective

Overall, the review is supportive of including soy foods for health, says Connie Diekman, RD, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. She reviewed the study but did not participate in it.

"But it is clear that more studies are needed in terms of the impact of soy at different ages, soy related to different disease states, and on how soy foods differ from supplements in terms of health," Diekman says.

Although the review does support the idea that soy may help in lowering some cancer risk, relieving hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, and possibly improve mental abilities, more research is needed, she says.

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