Soy has been promoted in the past few years as a healthy alternative cure for maintaining bone and relieving menopausal symptoms. But, according to a recent study, soy may not be nearly as effective as was previously thought.
This latest health news comes from a clinical trial funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Researchers evaluated 248 women between the ages of 45 and 60, all of whom were menopausal. At the study start, they had bone density levels considered healthy.
The research team randomly assigned 126 volunteers to a placebo group and 122 to a soy group. Neither the participants nor the researchers knew which women were getting what. The soy group took 200 milligrams of soy isoflavones a day for two years.
After the two-year study period, the researchers measured the hip and spine — standard areas to screen for bone loss — to determine whether the soy had made a difference in bone density. According to results, it had not.
The research team also looked at the women’s reports of menopausal symptoms. At the beginning, 176 of the women reported one or more symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, loss of libido, and vaginal dryness.
Here’s where the study got interesting: the two groups showed no differences in any of the symptoms at the end of the study, except hot flashes. Of those taking soy supplements, more than 48% had hot flashes, compared to about 32% of those on placebo. Women taking the soy isoflavone tablets also reported constipation, too, although the differences were not significant from a statistical point of view.
The researchers say they would not recommend taking soy for menopausal symptoms or bone health based on the results of the study. These results are definitive, the researchers assert, as this clinical trial was funded by the NIH and was long-term, and patients were given a huge dose of soy.
If you are experiencing menopausal symptoms, get your doctor’s advice. Remember, it is probably not going to hurt you to eat soy, even if soy is not a miracle cure for bone loss and hot flashes. Soy contains many beneficial ingredients and can still be a boost to your nutritional health when eaten in moderation as part of a well-balanced diet. However, if you’re on hormone replacement therapy, check with your doctor before adding soy to your diet.