Have a Heart

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), heart disease is the number-one killer of women, and the leading complication and cause of death among diabetes patients. Now, a new study at the University of Vermont (UVM) is examining whether or not adding soy to the diets of postmenopausal women at risk for diabetes will reduce their risk of developing heart disease.

The loss of estrogen as women age may contribute to the higher risk of heart disease following menopause, the AHA reports.

In addition, postmenopausal women who are overweight are at a substantially higher risk of developing diabetes, because often, their muscles become resistant and unable to use the insulin produced by the body. Diabetes patients have a higher risk of heart disease risk due to insulin resistance, which is associated with imbalances in cholesterol.

A new randomized, placebo-controlled study at UVM led by Cynthia Sites, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, is looking at whether or not adding soy to the diet of postmenopausal women at risk of developing diabetes affects their risk of heart disease.

To date, a number of clinical studies have shown that consuming soy protein is safe and effective in reducing low-density lipoprotein or LDL, the bad cholesterol linked to heart disease, in patients with a high LDL count.

“Our hope is that this study will show that soy increases the muscles’ ability to absorb insulin and sugar, so the pancreas will not make as much, which would prevent the development of diabetes and the correlated heart disease risk,” said Dr. Sites.

Study participants enroll in the study for three months, undergoing five outpatient visits and two overnight inpatient visits at the UVM General Clinical Research Center, where they consume either a soy or placebo supplement and then undergo a series of physiological tests.

The study, titled “Soy Phytoestrogens and Metabolic Cardiovascular Risk,” is funded by the American Heart Association’s Northeast Affiliate.

In addition to Dr. Sites, co-investigators at UVM include Michael Toth, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, and Jean Harvey-Berino, Ph.D., associate professor and interim chair of nutrition and food sciences.

For more information about the study, contact Penny Fairhurst, R.N., clinical research coordinator in the department of obstetrics and gynecology, at 802-847-0985.