According to the American Heart Association (AHA), tofuand other soy products may not do as much for cholesterollevels as was once thought. This statement may move FDAofficials to rethink the agency's stand on the "heart healthy"claims soy product manufacturers are currently permitted tomake. The findings were reported in the February edition ofthe AHA journal Circulation.
In a review of 22 clinical trials, researchers found thatlarge amounts of isolated soy protein helped lower patients'low-density lipoprotein (LDL)—the "bad" cholesterol—by anaverage of only 3%. Soy supplements, such as isoflavones,proved even less effective. In 19 studies, the effect ofisoflavones on LDL cholesterol was generally nil.
Earlier studies had suggested that diets rich in soy proteinmight help lower LDL levels and possibly raise high-densitylipoprotein cholesterol levels. In 1999, the FDA allowed manufacturersof soy products to use "heart healthy" labeling.Based on these more recent trials, however, the AHA statedthat there is no basis for recommending soy supplements. Infact, researchers did not find any special cholesterol advantagein soy protein, compared with other vegetable proteins.