The Health Benefits Of Soy Protein For Women During Menopause

soy protein

Soy is a staple food in many vegetarian diets, particularly in Asia. It has many healthy nutritional properties and is the preferred protein source for women.

Soy Is A Complete Protein

Soy protein is a complete plant protein therefore it contains all of the essential amino acids our body can’t make. In addition, being plant-based makes it a great protein source for vegans and vegetarians.

Soy & Breast Cancer

Some New Zealand and Australian women are cautious about soy due to the fact that it contains isoflavones. These are phytoestrogens or weak, plant-based estrogen-like compounds.

High estrogen levels have been linked to breast cancer, so it was thought that soy could also have a link. However, phytoestrogens are recommended during pre-, peri- and post-menopause. As well as that, numerous studies show there is a lower incidence of breast cancer amongst Asian women. And that’s pretty telling as they consume the highest levels of soy in the world.

Japanese women, who eat significantly more soy than Americans, have a lower incidence of breast, uterus, and prostate cancers.

breast cancer

Scientific Studies On Soy

There has been a lot of research on soy and cancer – below is a brief summary.

In a large meta-analysis (a combined analysis of all available studies) conducted in Japan, the researchers concluded:

“This meta-analysis supported the hypotheses that soy food intake may be associated with a decreased risk of breast cancer due to isoflavones.”

In a large study in Shanghai and a follow-up study the researchers concluded:

“These data suggest that soy foods do not have an adverse effect on breast cancer survival.”

In Western countries, the Washington University published a meta-analysis specifically on soy protein in the International Journal of Cancer Prevention. They concluded that regular consumption of soy protein containing foods and beverages may reduce the risk of breast cancer. By as much as 22 percent.

The Mayo Clinic references soy in this article. In it, they discuss how intake of soy protein lowers breast cancer risk.

And Web MD has written this easy to read overview, which concludes that soy is safe for women of all ages:

More studies are needed to examine if soy has a protective effect against breast and prostate cancer. From the current evidence, it is believed moderate consumption of soy foods is unlikely to have adverse effects. This equates to 1-2 serves of soy foods daily along with an overall healthy eating plan. This is consistent with dietary guidelines to eat a diet rich in plant foods.

Protection from Heart Disease

There has also been a lot of research on soy’s protective effect on the heart. The conclusion is that soy protein reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and elevates HDL. It also decreases triglycerides, which reduces the risk of coronary heart disease.

heart disease

The evidence was so overwhelming that the conservative USA Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the following health claim for soy:

“25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

“25 grams of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Click To Tweet

References:

  1. Li-Qiang QIN, Jia-Ying XU, Pei-Yu WANG, Kazuhiko HOSHI; 
Soyfood Intake in the Prevention of Breast Cancer Risk in Women: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Epidemiological Studies
 Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology, Vol. 52 (2006) No. 6 P 428-436
  2. Sonia M. Bovapati et. Al.; Soyfood intake and breast cancer survival: a follow up of the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study. Breast Cancer Research and Treatment
    July 2005, Volume 92, Issue 1, pp 

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Post-menopause


This is the time when menstruation is well and truly over, the ovaries have stopped producing high levels of sex hormones and for many ladies, perimenopause symptoms subside.

Estrogen has protective qualities and the diminished levels mean organs such as your brain, heart and bones become more vulnerable. It’s also a key lubricant so your lips may become drier, your joints less supple and your vagina might be drier. In addition, your thyroid, digestion, insulin, cortisol and weight may alter.

At this juncture, a woman might experience an increase in the signs of reduced estrogen but she should have a decrease of perimenopause symptoms. That said, some women will experience symptoms like hot flushes for years or even the rest of their lives.

Perimenopause

Peri = ‘near’

Most females begin to experience the symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-forties. Your progesterone levels decline from your mid-30s but it’s generally from around 40 that the rest of your sex hormones begin to follow suit. 

Perimenopause is a different experience for every woman and some women may barely notice it. The first indicators are usually changes to the monthly cycle. This means that for some ladies, this can be accompanied by things like sore breasts, mood swings, weight gain around the belly, and fatigue as time goes on.

For those with symptoms it can be a challenging time physically, mentally and emotionally.

Importantly, perimenopause lasts – on average – four to 10 years. The transition is usually a gradual process and many women enter perimenopause without realising.