Health Benefits of Soybeans

Like most whole foods, soybeans have a number of beneficial health effects.

Prevention of Breast and Prostate Cancer

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in modern society.

Eating soy products has been linked with increased breast tissue in women, hypothetically increasing the risk of breast cancer.

However, most observational studies indicate that consumption of soy products may reduce the risk of breast cancer.

Studies also indicate a protective effect against prostate cancer in men.

A number of soybean components may be responsible for the potential cancer-preventive effects. These include isoflavones, lectin, and lunasin.

Exposure to isoflavones early in life may be particularly protective against breast cancer later in life.

Keep in mind that all of the human studies on this subject are so-called observational studies. They indicate an association between soy consumption and cancer, but do not prove causation.

BOTTOM LINE:Soybeans contain a number of plant compounds that may help prevent breast and prostate cancer.

Alleviation of Menopausal Symptoms

Menopause is the period in a woman's life when menstruation stops.

It is often associated with unpleasant symptoms, such as sweating, hot flashes, and mood swings, effects that are brought about by a reduction in estrogen levels.

Interestingly, Asian women, especially Japanese women, are less likely to experience symptoms related to menopause than Western women.

Dietary habits, such as the higher consumption of soy foods in Asia, may explain this difference.

Studies indicate that isoflavones, a family of phytoestrogens found in soybeans, may alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

Soy products do not affect all women in this way. Soy only seems to be effective in so-called equol producers, women who possess a type of gut bacteria able to convert isoflavones into equol.

Equol has been suggested to be responsible for many of the beneficial health effects of soy consumption.

Daily intake of 135 mg of isoflavones for one week, equivalent to 68 g of soybeans per day, reduced menopausal symptoms only in equol producers.

Traditionally, hormonal therapies have been used as a treatment for menopausal symptoms. Today, isoflavone supplements are widely used as an alternative treatment.

BOTTOM LINE:Eating soybeans may help alleviate the symptoms of menopause.

Bone Health

Osteoporosis is a condition characterized by reduced bone density and increased risk of fractures, especially in elderly women.

Consumption of soy products may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in women that have undergone menopause.

BOTTOM LINE:Soybeans may cut the risk of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.


◎An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.