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Q: Should I Eat Soy? Part 7
A: According to our researchers and anti-soy crusaders Fallon and Enig “For most of us, giving up steak and eating veggie burgers instead will not bring down blood cholesterol levels.” They state that soy tends to drop cholesterol levels rapidly only in people who have very high cholesterol levels. This is true about drugs also – the effect is much more pronounced based on the magnitude of the problem. However, they miss the point that even people with normal levels of cholesterol tend to benefit from soy, as it lowers LDL and elevates HDL cholesterol, which everyone now recognizes as being more important than the total number.
However, Fallon and Enig go on to state that “Studies in which cholesterol was lowered by either diet or drugs have consistently resulted in a greater number of deaths in the treatment groups than the controls.” To document this remark, they provide a footnote to an article they wrote themselves. They then add “The truth is cholesterol is your best friend…When cholesterol levels are high, it’s because the body needs cholesterol…There is no greater risk of heart disease at cholesterol levels of 300 than at 180.”
One point that must be considered is that most studies documenting the effects of lowering cholesterol have reported the results of doing so with statin drugs, which do increase the risk of dying of all causes other than ischemic heart disease. However, to suggest connection between the effects of lowering cholesterol artificially through the use of pharmaceutical drugs and doing so by changing diet and lifestyle and substituting animal protein with soy protein is ludicrous.
Although it is true that the risk of heart disease is heightened more by oxidized cholesterol than by the mere presence of cholesterol itself, this statement is quite misleading to the average person, who eats the Standard American Diet. The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Intervention Trial took 10 years, cost $150,000,000 and showed that for every 1% reduction in total blood cholesterol, there is a 2% reduction in heart disease risk.
In 2000, the Nutrition Committee of the American Heart Association published a statement in the journal Circulation recommending the inclusion of 25 grams or more of soy protein per day as a means of promoting heart health. And the FDA allows products containing soy protein to be labeled with the statement that “soy protein, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
Personally, I don’t think that soy by itself is the answer – the populations who consume it and enjoy better health do a lot of other things right as well – lower fat, more fruits and vegetables, etc. But, I have yet to find a credible statement that these women have made about the dangers of soy that has made me rethink my recommendation about this food.