Soy proteins and cardiovascular disease

Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2001 Jan;3(1):47-53. doi: 10.1007/s11883-001-0010-2.


The soybean diet is the most potent dietary tool for hypercholesterolemia. The United States Food and Drug Administration recently approved the health claim for its role in reducing the risk of coronary disease. The hypocholesterolemic effect is directly correlated to the patient's cholesterolemia, with minimal or no reductions occurring at cholesterol of 6 mmol/L or less, and the most benefit occurring in patients with cholesterol of greater than 7 mmol/L. Hypotheses on the mechanism of action include soy fiber, isoflavones (phytoestrogens), and the protein itself. Although there is no evidence for the effect of fiber, studies with ethanol-extracted soy (devoid of isoflavones) indicated a loss of effect, but the extract itself (isoflavone rich) has no hypocholesterolemic activity. In humans, soy protein activates the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor pathway. Recent data suggest that soy protein subunits, particularly 7S, directly activiate LDL receptors in the human liver, thus providing a novel mechanism of plasma cholesterol reduction different from currently available diets and hypolipidemic drugs.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diet therapy*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Soybean Proteins / administration & dosage*
  • Soybean Proteins / therapeutic use*
  • United States
  • United States Food and Drug Administration


  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Soybean Proteins