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Can soy prevent diabetes? Only if you eat the right form.

You may know by now that inflammation is at the source of many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, and diabetes. Until recently, there have been no studies on inflammation with women who have metabolic syndrome or pre-diabetes.

A recent study published in Diabetes Care is the first of its kind. The participants were postmenopausal women who had all of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome, including C-reactive protein (CRP)--a marker for inflammation.

The researchers put the women on a healthy diet consisting of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy for two months. During this time, some were given either a small serving of soy (either in the form of soy protein or soy nuts) or red meat.

The results of this study were surprising. The women who ate half a cup of roasted soy nuts, those little hard snacks you can find in health food stores, had better results than women who ate either meat or soy protein.

In fact, soy nuts were better than either meat or soy protein in reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol and blood sugar. They also improved blood vessel function best.

It doesn't surprise me that soy would outperform meat. After all, meat contains arachidonic acid, a fat that promotes inflammation. And all beans turn into sugar slowly and help regulate blood sugar. But why was there a difference between soy protein and soy nuts?

The researchers used soy protein isolate, a highly refined form of soy protein made from defatted soy flour that has most of its fats and carbohydrates removed. It's high in protein, but it's a manufactured food product. The key word is "refined." Soy protein isolate is a refined food, and soy nuts are whole dried soybeans that have been soaked in water and baked.

The combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fats found in soy nuts is associated with the lowest amount of inflammation. Soy protein has much of its fats removed. This study supports previous findings that plant foods contribute to healthier levels of blood sugar and inflammation. And that our health suffers when we tamper with Mother Nature.

Soy nuts are very dry, and they're so hard they can break a tooth or bridge. That's why I eat Edamame, green soybeans. Look for them in the freezer section of your local health food store. They're tasty and packed with the good fats and fiber you need to prevent inflammation, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Azadbakht, L., et al. "Soy inclusion in the diet improves features of the metabolic syndrome: a randomized crossover study in postmenopausal women," Am Journ of Clin Nutr, March 2007.
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Publication:Women's Health Letter
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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