Anthony MS, Clarkson TB, Williams JK. Effects of soy isoflavones on atherosclerosis: potential mechanisms. Am J Clin Nutr. 1998 Dec;68(6 Suppl):1390S-3S.

It has long been recognized that coronary heart disease rates are lower in Japan, where soy consumption is common, than in Western countries. In experimental studies, atherosclerosis was reduced in animals fed diets containing soy protein compared with those fed diets with animal protein. Recently, several lines of evidence have suggested that the components of soy protein that lower lipid concentrations are extractable by alcohol (eg, the isoflavones genistein and daidzein). We recently evaluated the relative effect of the soy protein versus the alcohol-extractable components of soy on cardiovascular disease and its risk factors. Young male and female cynomolgus monkeys were fed diets that contained either 1) casein-lactalbumin as the source of protein (casein), 2) soy protein isolate from which the isoflavones were alcohol extracted (SPI-), or 3) isoflavone-intact soy protein (SPI+). The SPI+ group had significant improvements in LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol. Only HDL cholesterol was significantly improved in the SPI- group males compared with the casein group. The casein group had the most atherosclerosis, the SPI+ group had the least, and the SPI- group was intermediate but did not differ significantly from the casein group. Potential mechanisms by which soy isoflavones might prevent atherosclerosis include a beneficial effect on plasma lipid concentrations, antioxidant effects, antiproliferative and antimigratory effects on smooth muscle cells, effects on thrombus formation, and maintenance of normal vascular reactivity.

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