Related Topics: News, Nutrition, Osteoporosis

Can soy help build bones?

Soybean isoflavones showed some protective effects against postmenopausal bone loss.

AnnA Rushton

One thing I love about scientists is that they are forever investigating and trying to learn more. Of course it’s not always helpful, and sometimes downright confusing, but at least they are trying. The latest to join in the debate is the Agricultural Research Service in the USA where a 3-year study – the longest of its kind – has just been completed into the estrogen-like substances known as soybean isoflavones.

Scientists already know much about the more than 200 bones that make up your body, but what is not so certain is the exact role that many natural compounds in foods might play in strengthening our skeletons.

Because of its potential as a possible substitute for conventional hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women, soy has been the subject of more than two dozen studies conducted in the USA and Europe during the past decade and it appears that some of those investigations suggest that soy enhances bone health.

This particular study was into whether isoflavones extracted from soy protein would protect postmenopausal volunteers against bone loss. Participants in the study took either a placebo tablet or a tablet containing one of two moderate amounts of the isoflavones – 80mg (milligrams) or 120mg – for the duration of the investigation.

The result? Overall, the isoflavones had no significant positive effect on preventing bone loss at the lower level but the 120mg treatment showed a modest benefit when taken into consideration with the participants’ lifestyle factors.

The researchers suggest that the body’s response to isoflavones extracted from soy proteins may be different from responses to isoflavones in their natural matrix of soy protein or soy foods, or in a soy-protein supplement. Or, some soy-protein compound other than the extracted isoflavones may have been responsible for the bone-protecting effects seen in some previous studies. Finally, the isoflavone doses used in the 2010 study may not have been high enough to produce a bone-sparing effect.

In other words it might work and it might not, so try it and see but use a reasonably substantial dose if you want to see any effect.

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