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How does soy protein intake affect LDL cholesterol?
There has been an ongoing debate about soy protein and its impact on cholesterol for a long time. A new meta-analysis takes up the existing data and concludes that the protein actually lowers the level of unhealthy cholesterol.
A recent study by the University of Toronto found that soy protein can reduce LDL cholesterol levels. The results of the study were published in the journal Journal of Nutrition.
FDA is considering changing classification of soy protein
Soy protein is made from soybeans. Soybeans are one of the few plant foods that contain all essential amino acids. Soy protein is high in protein, contains no cholesterol and only a small amount of saturated fatty acids. Soy protein is on the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) list as a food that can lower cholesterol. However, there are considerations to remove it from this list, as previous studies have provided inconsistent results. If the FDA removed soy protein from its list, manufacturers would no longer be able to declare their soy products as healthy for the heart. The FDA bases its assessment on the results of 46 studies.
New meta-analysis was created
Recently, researchers at the University of Toronto decided to recheck the data and do a meta-analysis of the papers in question. Of the 46 studies selected by the FDA, 43 provided enough data to include in the analysis. A total of 41 studies specifically looked at LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein) cholesterol, which is commonly referred to as bad or unhealthy cholesterol.
Soy protein reduces LDL cholesterol in adults
LDL cholesterol has a bad reputation because it can accumulate in the arteries, increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease. That is why foods are particularly interesting that can reduce this risk. Soy protein significantly reduces LDL cholesterol in adults by three to four percent. The data thus support the advice to the international public to increase their vegetable protein intake in the diet, explain the authors of the study. Although the size of the observed effect was only small, the results were significant. The researchers said that when someone adds soy protein to their diet, in most cases it replaces other sources of protein that are often high in LDL cholesterol, such as meat and dairy products.
Changing your diet can reduce LDL cholesterol
If the diet replaces the consumption of saturated fat and high-cholesterol meat with soy, the cholesterol reduction can be even greater, the researchers say. A study by St. Michael’s Hospital, Toronto, published in 2010, has already examined this change in diet. At the time, the authors involved concluded that by combining direct LDL reduction with soy protein and replacing cholesterol-rich foods, LDL cholesterol could be reduced by a total of 3.6 to 6 percent.
Were there any restrictions in the current study?
As the authors of the recent study explain, one of the main limitations of their research is that only a subset of relevant studies have been examined. However, the purpose of the current investigation was to test the strength of the FDA's conclusions based on the data. (as)