Eating Soy Foods May Reduce Fracture Rate
High-Soy Diet May Protect Against Fractures After Menopause
The Preventive Power of Soy continued...
"We found that women who consumed the soy isoflavones maintained stable bone mass," Setchell tells WebMD. "They had no bone loss in two years. And that has now been extended to four years."
The women who did not get isoflavones in their soy had significant bone loss -- about 4.5%. Bad as that sounds, Setchell says, it's not as much bone loss as most women would see at menopause if they were not taking some kind of bone-enhancing treatment. He thinks soy protein may also play a role in bone protection.
But whatever it is about soy and bone, the key word is protection. Setchell and Shu both stress that soy is not a treatment for bone loss -- its effect is to prevent bone loss.
More Health Benefits of Soy
Bone loss isn't the only reason to consume soy foods.
"It is not just for bone fracture. It is a great health benefit," Shu says. "Most studies indicate that soy is pretty safe, and the evidence is quite strong that it protects against coronary heart disease. There are also some data indicating soy may reduce the risk of breast cancer. Taking all those things together, I recommend women eat soy as much as they can."
But don't just add soy to your diet, warns Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, director of sports nutrition at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
"This is not an additive. You still have to watch your calories," Bonci tells WebMD. "If you add it into your diet, think about what you are wiling to give up. Otherwise you are going to get too big for your bones."
Bonci also warns that soy supplements aren't a replacement for soy foods. If you're going to go for soy health benefits, she says, do it with foods -- not pills.