Historically, the incidence of type 2 diabetes has been lower in Asian populations compared with those in Western countries. One possible reason for the lower incidence among Asians is that they consume fermented soybean products, which are unique to the traditional Asian diet. Some have hypothesized that dietary phytoestrogens and soy peptides in fermented soybean foods consumed in traditional Asian diets may help prevent and slow the progression of type 2 diabetes. This review evaluates the existing evidence from animal studies and clinical and epidemiologic investigations on fermented soybeans in the prevention and treatment of type 2 diabetes. Nutritional studies performed in animals and intervention studies with humans suggest that the ingestion of soy protein with isoflavones improves glucose control and reduces insulin resistance. Korean fermented soybean products such as doenjang, kochujang, and chungkookjang contain alterations in the structures and content of isoflavonoids and small bioactive peptides, which are produced during fermentation. Several studies revealed improvements in insulin resistance and insulin secretion with the consumption of these fermented products. Therefore, fermented soybean products may help prevent or attenuate the progression of type 2 diabetes. Although the lack of human intervention trials does not permit definitive conclusions, the evidence does suggest that fermented soy products may be better for preventing or delaying the progression of type 2 diabetes compared with nonfermented soybeans.
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