This is what the researchers from the University of Hull will be presenting to the Society for Endocrinology, annual conference being held in Edinburgh this week.
Osteoporosis, meaning “porous bone”, is a disease that affects a third of women worldwide and one in five men over 50. The disease increases the risk of bone fracture through reducing the density and quality of the bone.
Osteoporosis is responsible for nearly nine million fractures per year.
Soybeans are rich in the compound isoflavone. This gained scientific attention due to the chemical structure of the compound being similar to estrogen, the hormone that is known to protect against bone loss. This has led researchers to explore the suggestion that the estrogen-like structure of isoflavones may have a similar effect on the body.
The study consisted of 200 women going through early menopause and put them into two groups. In the first group, the women were asked to take a daily supplement combination of 66mg isoflavones with 30g soy protein. In the second group, the women were also asked to take a daily supplement of 30g soy protein, but no isoflavones.
The study had the women taking the supplements over a six-month period. During this time they gave blood samples, allowing the researchers to “measure markers of bone turnover”.
One of these markers is the protein BCTX, which marks the process of bone break down and the releasing of its minerals into the blood stream.
The results of the study showed that the women who took both soy protein and isoflavones had significantly lower levels of BCTX than those only taking the soy protein supplement. These findings suggest the women taking the combined-supplement were experiencing a lower rate of bone loss and so, a lower risk of developing osteoporosis.
Dr. Thozhukat Sathyapalan from the department of academic cardiology at Hull said, “We found that soy protein and isoflavones are a safe and effective option for improving bone health in women during early menopause.”
“The actions of soy appear to mimic that of conventional osteoporosis medication.”
Dr. Sathyapalan suggested that a Western diet rich in soybean foods could be the way to lower the risk of women developing osteoporosis.
Researchers continue to study to effects of soy protein and isoflavones, with plans to look further into the long-term benefits and any other health benefits they may bring.