Soy isoflavone intake lowers serum LDL cholesterol: A meta-analysis of 8 randomized controls trials in humans
Clinical trials have noted hypocholesterolemic effects of soy protein intake, but the components responsible are not known. This meta-analysis of 8 randomized controlled trials was conducted to more precisely evaluate the effects of isoflavones on blood LDL cholesterol concentration independently of soy protein level. PubMed was searched for English-language "randomized controlled trial" articles published from 1966 to 2003 that described the effects of soy protein isolate (SPI) intake with measured isoflavone levels on blood lipids in humans using the search terms "soy protein," "isoflavones," and "cholesterol." From 31 articles identified by the search, 8 articles (with 10 low vs. high isoflavone comparisons) were selected for the meta-analysis. Subjects in each comparison consumed similar dietary fat, cholesterol, and fiber; the reported body weight of subjects did not change significantly during treatment. Serum LDL cholesterol concentration in subjects who consumed SPI (mean 50 g/d) with high isoflavone content (mean intake 96 mg/d) decreased by 0.15 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.08 to 0.23 mmol/L; P < 0.0001) compared with those who consumed the same SPI level with low isoflavone content (mean intake 6 mg/d). Decreases in serum LDL cholesterol concentration in hypercholesterolemic and normocholesterolemic subjects were 0.18 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.01 to 0.35 mmol/L; P = 0.03) and 0.14 mmol/L (95% CI: 0.06, 0.23 mmol/L; P = 0.0008), respectively. With identical soy protein intake, high isoflavone intake led to significantly greater decreases in serum LDL cholesterol than low isoflavone intake, demonstrating that isoflavones have LDL cholesterol-lowering effects independent of soy protein.