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NMU 128 – soy protein lowers LDL

Nutrition / Natural Medicine Update No 128 (May 6, 2019)

with Dr. James Meschino


Topic: Soy Protein Foods Lower Bad Cholesterol

Source: Journal of Nutrition (April 2019)


A study published in the Journal of Nutrition in April 2019 shows that soy protein foods help to lower the bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol) and total blood cholesterol levels. This study was a meta-analysis (or summary) of 46 previous studies looking at soy intake and cholesterol levels, conducted by researchers from St Michaels Hospital in Toronto.

This is a timely publication, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plans to remove soy from its list of heart-healthy foods. However, a review of all the clinical studies looking at soy protein foods and cholesterol levels indicates that consuming soy products helps to lower LDL-cholesterol – the bad cholesterol. As the researchers note, forty-one of the trials examined soy protein’s effects on low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which is often referred to as the “bad cholesterol” because a high amount of it leads to a build-up of cholesterol in arteries. All 43 studies provided data about “total cholesterol,” which reflects the overall amount of cholesterol in the blood. Researchers found that soy protein reduced LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) by three to four percent in adults. This is a small but significant reduction.

When you add the fact that by consuming a soy protein food you are often ingesting it in place of protein food that is moderate or high in saturated fat content (like red meat, pork, and even dark meat of chicken or turkey), which is known to elevate LDL-cholesterol and total blood cholesterol. In other words when you have a vegetable stir-fry with tofu instead of beef or chicken or shrimp, or you have a veggie burger, veggie dog, or you have a plant-based meat alternative like textured vegetable protein in place of meat sauce or meat-based cabbage rolls, or as a replacement for meat in a chili recipe, you are getting the cholesterol-lowering benefit of soy protein, while avoiding the ingestion of meat products that raise blood cholesterol.  So, by ingesting a soy protein food that lowers LDL cholesterol and by not ingesting food that raises LDL cholesterol, the reduction in LDL cholesterol can be very significant if this practice is applied consistently over time. In the words of Dr. Jenkins, the lead researcher, “We hope the public will continue to consider plant-based diets as a healthy option. It is in line with Health Canada’s recently released Food Guide, which emphasizes plant protein food consumption by Canadians.”

I think this is very good advice. I have followed the work of Dr. Jenkins and his research team for many years and have learned a great deal from the clinical studies they have published.

I have included the reference for this research paper in the text below.


Sonia Blanco Mejia, Mark Messina, Siying S Li, Effie Viguiliouk, Laura Chiavaroli, Tauseef A Khan, Korbua Srichaikul, Arash Mirrahimi, John L Sievenpiper, Penny Kris-Etherton, David J A Jenkins. A Meta-Analysis of 46 Studies Identified by the FDA Demonstrates that Soy Protein Decreases Circulating LDL and Total Cholesterol Concentrations in Adults. The Journal of Nutrition, 2019.  10.1093/jn/nxz020


Eat Smart, Live Well, Look Great,

Dr. Meschino

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