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No Benefit from Supplemental Soy in Menopause

Posted Apr 04 2013 3:00am
To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen in addressing Senator Dan Quayle during the 1988 Vice-Presidential debate , "Soy, I served with Estrogen.  I knew Estrogen.  Estrogen was a friend of mine.  Soy, you're no Estrogen."  I thought this apropos as a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial was published in this month's Menopause in which the authors concluded that soy supplementation is of no benefit in menopausal women.

The authors followed for 24 months 403 post-menopausal women enrolled in the Osteoporosis Prevention Using Soy (OPUS) study and analyzed their quality of life using the Menopause-Specific Quality-of-Life (MENQOL) questionnaire to evaluate vasomotor, psychosocial, physical & sexual domains.  Compared to placebo, neither 80mg nor 120mg of soy isoflavones comprised mostly of daidzein made a dramatic impact on MENQOL scores.  Importantly, there was no difference in thickness of endometrial lining as measured by transvaginal ultrasound.

To be fair, soybeans contain genistein & glycitein isoflavones in addition to daidzein.  Moreover, the women studied in this group were 5 years post-menopausal and thus, conceivably past the worst of their symptoms since most reported not being bothered by either vasomotor or sexual symptoms at baseline.  The participants were also of normal weight so it's possible that  these results won't apply to the two-thirds of the population that are either overweight or obese.

Nevertheless, while soy supplementation may not have worked in this particular trial, there is no reason to prohibit consumption of soybeans as part of a healthy diet.  Perhaps some women will receive adequate benefit when other isoflavones are consumed, rather than a single one in isolation.  Certainly, soybeans are a good source of complete protein & fiber w/o the saturated fat found in land animal-based proteins .
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