Soy Helps Raise Good Cholesterol

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Findings from a clinical study in China suggest soy protein helps lower heart disease risks, even for healthy people, by increasing levels of "good" cholesterol in the blood. Soy protein is easily incorporated into food -- high-protein beverages, energy bars and other soy-containing products are already available in U.S. stores.

Unlike the proteins found in most grains and legumes, soy protein contains all the essential amino acids found in animal protein. "There is increasing evidence that consumption of soy protein in place of animal protein lowers blood cholesterol levels and may provide other cardiovascular benefits," the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee said.

The study involved a group of 60 men and 90 women, ages 35 to 65, all of whom had normal cholesterol levels. Researchers added 40 grams of soy protein to the daily diet of half of the participants, in the form of cookies containing soy protein, while the other volunteers ate a starchy placebo. After 12 weeks, those receiving the supplement showed a nearly 5 percent increase in "good" cholesterol compared to the others. The researchers presented their findings at an annual meeting of the American Heart Association in San Antonio, Texas.