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Two glasses of soya milk a day maintains bone mass

Women at risk of osteoporosis can help keep their bone mass from declining by drinking two glasses of soya milk a day. This is the conclusion of to a two-year study financed by the Danish government.

Soya isoflavones imitate estradiol, and according to test-tube studies they do this in the best way possible: They promote the positive effects of estradiol and inhibit the negative effects. One of the positive effects is that they stimulate skeletal growth processes.

The researchers were curious to know whether low doses of isoflavones work as well, so they conducted a study using ninety women with an average age of 58. All were at risk of osteoporosis, but were healthy.

The researchers divided the women into 4 groups. The SOY group drank two glasses of soya milk each day for two years. This amounted to a daily 15 g soya protein. The researchers selected a soya variety with a high amount of isoflavones. The women consumed 76 mg isoflavones per day. That's a lot. If you want to consume that amount by drinking regular soya milk, you need three 250 mg glasses.

A second group used a cream containing progesterone. [TDP+] The women spread 30 g gel (which contained 540 mg progesterone) on their skin daily for three weeks. They alternated this with a week without progesterone. They repeated this cycle for 2 years.

A third group, the Combined group, drank soya milk and used progesterone gel.

The fourth group, the Control group, drank two glasses a day of soya milk that contained no isoflavones and spread a gel that contained no progesterone.

The figure below gives a summary of the changes in bone mass for the different groups of women.

Two glasses of soya milk a day maintains bone mass

The soya milk stopped the process of osteoporosis in the vertebrae. Interestingly, the combination of progesterone gel and soya milk did not work out well. It looks as though the two undermine each other's effect.

The researchers measured two markers for bone manufacture in the blood. One of these was type-1 procollagen N-terminal peptide [PINP]. The higher the PINP, the more bone tissue you are making. In the soya group the PINP concentration remained stable; in the progesterone group the concentration increased, and in the other two groups it declined.

Two glasses of soya milk a day maintains bone mass

"Isoflavone-rich soy foods prevent bone loss in the lumbar spine and offer a natural alternative during menopause and in older age for women who are poor candidates for traditional HRT", the researchers conclude. "The relatively simple inclusion of soy foods offers a cheap and non-pharmacological intervention for prevention of osteoporosis."

Soya isoflavones are also available as supplements on the market. According to a recent American study, these don't help to strengthen bones in older women. Perhaps supplements containing isoflavones only work if you consume them in the form of whole soya products in your diet.

Eur J Nutr. 2004 Aug;43(4):246-57.

Soya supplement doesn't make bones stronger 02.02.2010