In our society soy foods do not get special preference, in fact some people find them disgusting. However, a recent study that showed that eating soy foods could protect us from getting bone fractures may change our minds.
The September issue of Archives on Internal Medicine reported on a study of 24,403 Chinese women between the ages of 40 to 70 years and looked at their food habits for nearly 5 years.
They found that the group of women who ate more soy foods had 37% less bone fractures compared to women who ate the least amount of soy foods, after controlling for other variables. The relationship was linear, meaning that the more soy foods the women ate, the less was their risk of bone fracture. The reduction in fracture was more pronounced for women in early years after menopause.
So why would eating soy foods reduce bone fracture? Bone fractures are due to osteoporosis, which is bone loss. Women experience bone loss of 3% to 5% per year in early years after menopause due to the lack of estrogen. Hormone replacement therapy with estrogen reduces the bone loss however recent studies have shown that it increases the risk for heart disease and breast cancer.
Interestingly, soy foods have phytoestrogen (isofavones). This is a plant estrogen, and scientists have hypothesized that this offers the protective effect to the bones similar to hormone therapy.
How much soy protein should an average person eat? It is not easily possible for Americans to match the 13 grams of soy protein per day that the Chinese women ate in the study, but introducing vege-burgers, tofu and soymilk in the diet is a step in the right direction.
So next time you go to your favorite Chinese or Thai restaurant, ask your waiter to put extra tofu in your entree.