Study: Soy protein may help lower cholesterol

TORONTO — Many people looking to eat less meat, but still maintain their muscle mass should consider switching to soy protein. Soy is a great source of plant-based protein, and now a new study finds that it may lower cholesterol in small, but ultimately significant amounts.

Interestingly, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began taking steps to remove soy from its official list of heart-healthy foods in 2017. With this in mind, researchers from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto set out to analyze the effect of soy on heart health themselves. To do this, they performed a meta-analysis on 43 existing trials that evaluated soy’s health benefits.

More specifically, 41 of the 43 trials examined soy protein’s effect on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as “bad” cholesterol. Additionally, all 43 trials provided information on “total cholesterol” levels.

After performing the meta-analysis, the research team found that soy protein reduced LDL cholesterol by three to four percent in adults.

“When one adds the displacement of high saturated fat and cholesterol-rich meats to a diet that includes soy, the reduction of cholesterol could be greater,” says lead author Dr. David Jenkins in a hospital release. “The existing data and our analysis of it suggest soy protein contributes to heart health.”

The study’s authors admit the scope of their findings was limited due to only using data that had been previously collected and considered by the FDA. However, they still hope the FDA takes their findings into consideration when determining soy protein’s impact on heart health.

“We hope the public will continue to consider plant-based diets as a healthy option,” Dr. Jenkins says. “It is in line with Health Canada’s recently released Food Guide, which emphasizes plant protein food consumption by Canadians.”

The study is published in The Journal of Nutrition.

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