Harvard Women's Health Watch

In the journals: Soy extracts don't improve bone density in older women

In the journals

Soy extracts don't improve bone density in older women

Soy once looked like the kinder, gentler alternative to hormone therapy for menopausal symptoms and risk reduction. Many population studies suggested that women who regularly ate soy products had not only fewer hot flashes but also a lower risk of developing heart disease and osteoporosis. This apparent power of soy has been attributed to its estrogen-like effects.

Scientists seeking to isolate the chemical components in soy that are responsible for its seeming benefits have homed in on soy protein and isoflavones. Studies with isoflavones suggest that the compounds act preferentially in bone. And a few studies have shown that isoflavones increase bone mineral density in perimenopausal women. But findings have been inconsistent or lacking in older women — in particular, women 10 years or so past menopause, the time when fracture risk starts rising dramatically.

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