Something to Say About Soy

Apparently the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is planning to remove soy from the “official” list of heart healthy foods, but a group of Canadian scientists have something to say about it.

(Note: I couldn’t find a press release from the FDA announcing the removal of soy from the heart healthy list, but should I find it, I will attach it here.)

I’m working on an article right now about lipoproteins, but here’s a brief description to get us started. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is usually referred to as “good” cholesterol, and this is because it is associated with clearing cholesterol from the body through the liver and preventing plaque build-up in the arteries (plaque build-up is bad; it leads to heart disease).

Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) on the other hand is the “bad” cholesterol, and it gets its bad rep from its association with coronary artery disease and carrying cholesterol to the arteries. The general goal is to maintain high levels of HDL and low levels of LDL. Stay tuned for more on lipoproteins.

The study was a meta-analysis of 43 existing trials evaluating soy to determine whether removing soy is the right move or not. Meta-analyses take one subject and quantitatively analyze a variety of different studies that all focus on that one subject.

Out of 43 trials, 41 examined soy protein and its effect on LDL. All 43 trials contained data about “total cholesterol.”

For reference, results from a typical blood test you might have at your annual doctor’s appointment will report on:

  • Presence of anemia or infection
  • Kidney and liver function
  • Electrolyte levels
  • Diabetes status
  • Thyroid function
  • Cholesterol levels

Among the cholesterol levels, the lab will report on:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol

In this particular research article, scientists highlighted a soy protein that reduced LDL cholesterol by three to four percent. The lead author of the study says that this number is small but significant and that reducing saturated fat and cholesterol-rich meat consumption in a diet that includes soy protein could be even more beneficial for cholesterol levels.

Researchers from this study only examined research studies that the FDA has referenced in the past, and the lead author (from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto) pointed out that soy protein, as a part of a plant-based diet, is “in line with Health Canada’s recently released food guide.”

Read about that food guide here.

St. Michael’s Hospital press release

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