Soy Rich Diet Before Menopause Leads to a Healthier Heart

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By Sarah Thomas | August 4, 2014 1:37 PM EST

Soy or soya is a bean of the soy plant, it is used in salads, soups, tofu, soy milk and a lot of dairy and meat substitutes. A study published in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopause Society (NAMS) revealed that soy can help feminine hearts provided it is consumed at the right time.

Reuters
Jorge, an immigrant from Mexico, poses with women while dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo in Times Square, New York July 30, 2014. Elmo and Cookie Monster have long delighted young viewers on TV's "Sesame Street," but the recent antics of New York street performers dressed as the beloved characters have drawn the ire of city officials and now the show's producers. Sesame Workshop, which owns the rights to Big Bird, Ernie and the assorted puppet monsters on the 45-year-old program, said on Tuesday it was drafting plans to stop performers who dress up as the characters from appearing in Times Square, where they pose for photos with tourists and then demand tips. Picture taken July 30, 2014. To match story USA-SESAME STREET/NEW YORK REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)

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They found that lifelong soy consumption caused the least atherosclerosis while women who switched to soy-less diet after menopause lead to just as much atherosclerosis as a lifelong of no soya diet. Switching to soy from a non soy after menopause is beneficial only if there isn't much atherosclerosis already.

These findings were backed by a research conducted by Wake Forest School of Medicine in Winston-Salem, NC. Premenopausal cynomolgus monkeys were given a high protein diet from either animal sources or from high-isoflavone soyabeans. Their ovaries were then removed to mimic human menopause, and then a group of monkeys continued a soy diet while the second group switched from animal protein to soy and a third group stuck with animal protein.

After 34 months, those who ate soy before and after menopause had good cholesterol levels and had much lower plaque in the arteries. Those who began following the soy protein diet after menopause, similar to some North American women concerned about their heart health, cholesterol levels did improve significantly (with lower total, LDL, and VLDL and higher HDL). But in terms of the amount of plaque progressed in the arteries, they saw no significant change.

In some monkeys the postmenopausal switch to soy made a huge difference and for those with small plaques in the arteries during the time of menopause reduced the development of plaque in the arteries.

The study was able to discover the effects of a soy diet or soy supplements and the time when it should be consumed to have an effect on heart health before menopause or very early after menopause, when artery plaques may still be small. NAMS Executive Director Margery Gass, MD said, "This study underscores how important it is for women to get into the best cardiovascular shape they can before menopause. The healthy habits they start then will carry them through the years to come.

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(Photo: Reuters / )
Jorge, an immigrant from Mexico, poses with women while dressed as the Sesame Street character Elmo in Times Square, New York July 30, 2014. Elmo and Cookie Monster have long delighted young viewers on TV's "Sesame Street," but the recent antics of New York street performers dressed as the beloved characters have drawn the ire of city officials and now the show's producers. Sesame Workshop, which owns the rights to Big Bird, Ernie and the assorted puppet monsters on the 45-year-old program, said on Tuesday it was drafting plans to stop performers who dress up as the characters from appearing in Times Square, where they pose for photos with tourists and then demand tips. Picture taken July 30, 2014. To match story USA-SESAME STREET/NEW YORK REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT SOCIETY)
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