Soy Products May be Useful in Menopause
~ June 1998 No.46 ~
In Japan, there is no word for menopause and it is widely believed that in that country women do not suffer from the effects of this change of life. Explanations for this have centred mainly on diet, and the differences between the Japanese - and more generally the Asian diet - and a typical western diet. The most obvious difference is the high consumption of soybean and soybean products.
Soybean contains a family of chemical compounds called phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens have chemical structures similar to the estrogens produced in the body and it is believed that eating foods rich in phytoestrogens can help alleviate low estrogen production in the body. Adding sources of phytoestrogens such as soybean and soybean products to the diet may, therefore, be a more natural way to treat the symptoms of menopause.
A recent report by a team of researchers at the Bowman Gray School of Medicine in Winston-Salem NC indicated that soy phytoestrogens indeed behave like the estrogen normally given to women as part of hormone replacement therapy. In monkeys the soy phytoestrogens showed similar effects on atherosclerosis and fat metabolism as did estrogen. Although not a study of menopause, it adds further evidence of the similarity of estrogen and phytoestrogens.
The attractiveness of phytoestrogens is that they are natural and can be added to the diet in a variety of ways. Of course in most foods they are found in low concentrations and so their effects may only be evident after long periods of consumption.
This is a particularly interesting topic for our female readers and we have had several requests for articles related to diet and menopause. We are researching other articles that will appear in future issues of Medicinal Food News