Soy products may help lower blood pressure

By Sara Wyant

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

CHICAGO, March 26 - Soybean growers gained a key endorsement from cardiologists over the weekend, with the release of new data touting the heart-healthy benefits of eating soy products.


Eating foods that contain isoflavones - a key compound in soy milk, tofu, green tea and even peanuts - every day may help young adults lower their blood pressure, according to research presented Sunday at the American College of Cardiology's 61st Annual Scientific Session. For the first time, there appears to be a particular benefit for African Americans, who have hypertension prevalence rates near 42 percent.

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“What's unique about this study is that the results are very applicable to the general population. Our results strongly suggest a blood pressure benefit for moderate amounts of dietary isoflavone intake in young black and white adults,” said Safiya Richardson, a graduating medical student at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons and the study's lead investigator. “Our study is the first to show a benefit in African Americans, who have a higher incidence of high blood pressure, with an earlier onset and more severe end-organ damage.”

Compared to those consuming less than 0.33 mg of isoflavones per day, those reporting the most isoflavone intake (more than 2.5 mg per day) had a significantly lower systolic blood pressure (-5.5 mmHg lower on average). To help put this into context, an 8 ounce glass of soy milk has about 22 mg of isoflavones, and 100 g of roasted soybeans have as much as 130 mg.

“This could mean that consuming soy protein, for example, in combination with a DASH diet - one that is high in fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains - could lead to as much as a 10 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure for pre-hypertensives, greatly improving their chances of not progressing to hypertension,” said Richardson. “Any dietary or lifestyle modification people can easily make that doesn't require a daily medication is exciting, especially considering recent figures estimating that only about one third of American hypertensives have their blood pressure under control.”

“It's possible that these foods may help compensate for this,” she said. “Based on our results and those of previous studies, we would encourage the average adult to consider including moderate amounts of soy products in a healthy, well-balanced diet to reduce the chances of developing high blood pressure. For people with hypertension, it's important that they talk with their doctor about isoflavones as a possible addition to a low sodium DASH diet that could reduce the need for medication.”

Richardson added that different soy products have different concentrations of isoflavones, so it is important for consumers to do their homework.

The report is based on data from year-20 of the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study, which is an NIH-funded study created to examine the development and determinants of cardiovascular disease. This study began in 1985 with 5,115 African American and white Americans aged 18-30 years old who have been followed and reexamined at various intervals. Year-20 was the first year that participants completed an extensive dietary survey.
Richardson says this study helps lay the groundwork for randomized controlled trials to help better understand the association between isoflavones and blood pressure. She reports no conflicts of interest.



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