Celebrate Valentine’s Day with Soy Isoflavones

Do your heart and that of your lover’s some good with including soy isoflavones in your diet. A heart-shaped block of tofu may seem like an unconventional Valentine, but it promises more health than a powdery sugar confection with the message “Be Mine” inscribed on it.

Give it to Some Bunny you love:
Soy isoflavone diets have been tested on rabbits, with positive results seen in decreasing atherosclerotic plaques. In other words, it helps decrease hardening of the arteries. To create hardening of the arteries, the research bunnies were fed casein, a protein found in cheese and some “nutritional” drinks (yikes!). But some bunnies were also fed 5mg/kg/day of isoflavones with this casein diet. The isoflavone plus casein diet bunnies showed 36% less bad cholesterol (LDL), 36% less aorta wall cholesterol, and twice as much good cholesterol (HDL) than the other group. They also had lower rates of the heat shock proteins related to atherosclerosis. (1) These isoflavones, especially genistein, has been found to protect the cells in the walls of human blood vessels at the DNA level. So the picture of vessel damage is not just about cholesterol levels and deposits. Genistein inhibits and reverses the cell death propcess that the toxic amino acid homocysteine creates. (2) It heals and protects!

Go at it like rabbits!
Nutritional supplements like soy isoflavones, vitamin E, selenium and lycopene can help protect against prostate cancer . (3) Some worry, though, that the hormonal modulation effects of soy isoflavones may interfere with fertility. A metabolite of isoflavones called Equol has the potential to decrease 5 alpha dihydrotestosterone, a very potent form of testosterone. (4) However, a study done in 2004 showed no alteration in male rabbit fertility, even at doses of 5 mg/kg/day. Some of the biochemistry in the rabbit semen even improved, like HDL levels.(5)
So when you want to make your true love a heart-healthy, sex healthy treat this Valentine’s Day, include soy isoflavones like that in tofu, on your holiday menu! Happy Valentine’s Day!

References:
1 Rosier Olimpio Pereira I Saes Parra Abdall D. Soy isoflavones reduce heat shock proteins in experimental atherosclerosis. Eur J Nutr, 2005 Nov 24
2 Fuchs D, et al. Genistein blocks homocysteine-induced alterations in the proteome of human endothelial cells. Proteomics. 2005 Jul;5(11):2808-18
3 Kucuk O. Chemoprevention of prostate cancer. Cancer Metastis Rev2002;21(2):111-24.
4 Lephart ED, et al. ILAR 2004; 45(4):443-54
5 Yousef MI, et al. J Environ Sci Health B. 2004;39(5-6):819-33

Natalie Kather, MD

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