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Examiner
  • Lori Boyajian O’Neill: Menopause and the hope of soy solutions

  • Menopause, in part, is defined by declining levels of estrogen. Replace the estrogen, and, voila, menopause symptoms will magically go away.

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  • Menopause, in part, is defined by declining levels of estrogen. Replace the estrogen, and, voila, menopause symptoms will magically go away. Well, not so easy. Women have been looking for safe estrogen replacements and many have turned to soy products. Thousands of women include soy products in their diets to either prevent or diminish hot flashes and night sweats but a recently published study suggests that dietary soy is not effective in preventing or treating menopausal heat.
    Soy and menopause, what do you know? T or F?
    1. Soy can prevent osteoporosis.
    2. Soy energy bars are the most popular soyfood product.
    3. The U.S. is the largest soybean producer.
    Soy is a plant in the pea family which has been a staple of Asian diet for centuries. The first soy products introduced to the U.S. market were initially found in Asian markets and spread from there. Soybeans are the high protein seeds of the soy plant and are loaded with isoflavones, which are similar to estrogen.
    Soy products have rapidly gained popularity in the past decade as an alternative to other proteins. Many soy products are available in the marketplace including supplements (tablets and capsules); cooked soy (tofu and soy milk) and additives in processed foods such as cheese and baked goods.
    It is well known that lower estrogen levels, a hallmark of menopause, cause changes in body temperature and the sometimes debilitating and often annoying hot flashes. “Is it hot in here or is it just me?” It is the allure of the isoflavones which attracts women for its potential to alleviate symptoms of menopause.
    Researchers at the University of California Davis investigated the use of dietary soy in the management of menopausal symptoms. In a study published in the journal Menopause they reported that dietary soy did not have any effect on either preventing or treating hot flashes or night sweats. The researchers monitored 1,600 menopausal women for over 10 years and they found no relationship between soy intake and improvement of symptoms. It is easy to see why it would be thought that soy could help. It is not known why soy isoflavones, also called phytoestrogens (“plant estrogens”) are not effective but some researchers speculate that normal digestive processes may play a role in inactivating the soy protein before it can be active in the body.
    The soy supplement business is booming. According to the Soyfoods Association of North America sales have risen from $1 billion to $5.2 billion from 1996-2011. The variety of products is ever expanding from traditional tofu to soy milk. Soy-based energy bars are the most popular item,accounting for over $1 billion in annual sales, just edging out soy milk.
    There are many reasons to incorporate soy into one’s diet. Those who use soy thinking that it will prevent hot flashes and night sweats will very likely be disappointed.
    Page 2 of 2 - Answers: 1. F; 2. T; 3. T
    Dr. Lori Boyajian-O’Neill can be contacted at lori.boyajian-oneill@hcahealthcare.com.
     
     
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