Soya products and serum lipids: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Br J Nutr. 2015 Sep 28;114(6):831-43. doi: 10.1017/S0007114515002603. Epub 2015 Aug 13.


Soya proteins and isoflavones have been reported to exert beneficial effects on the serum lipid profile. More recently, this claim is being challenged. The objective of this study was to comprehensively examine the effects of soya consumption on the lipid profile using published trials. A detailed literature search was conducted via MEDLINE (from 2004 through February 2014), CENTRAL (The Cochrane Controlled Clinical Trials Register) and for randomised controlled trials assessing the effects of soya on the lipid profile. The primary effect measure was the difference in means of the final measurements between the intervention and control groups. In all, thirty-five studies (fifty comparisons) were included in our analyses. Treatment duration ranged from 4 weeks to 1 year. Intake of soya products resulted in a significant reduction in serum LDL-cholesterol concentration, -4.83 (95% CI -7.34, -2.31) mg/dl, TAG, -4.92 (95% CI -7.79, -2.04) mg/dl, and total cholesterol (TC) concentrations, -5.33 (95% CI -8.35, -2.30) mg/dl. There was also a significant increase in serum HDL-cholesterol concentration, 1.40 (95% CI 0.58, 2.23) mg/dl. The I² statistic ranged from 92 to 99%, indicating significant heterogeneity. LDL reductions were more marked in hypercholesterolaemic patients, -7.47 (95% CI -11.79, -3.16) mg/dl, than in healthy subjects, -2.96 (95% CI -5.28, -0.65) mg/dl. LDL reduction was stronger when whole soya products (soya milk, soyabeans and nuts) were used as the test regimen, -11.06 (95% CI -15.74, -6.37) mg/dl, as opposed to when 'processed' soya extracts, -3.17 (95% CI -5.75, -0.58) mg/dl, were used. These data are consistent with the beneficial effects of soya proteins on serum LDL, HDL, TAG and TC concentrations. The effect was stronger in hypercholesterolaemic subjects. Whole soya foods appeared to be more beneficial than soya supplementation, whereas isoflavone supplementation had no effects on the lipid profile.

Keywords: Heart disease; Hypercholesterolaemia; Lipids; Nutrition; Prevention; TC total cholesterol.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood*
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Functional Food*
  • Humans
  • Hypercholesterolemia / blood
  • Hypercholesterolemia / diet therapy
  • Hypercholesterolemia / prevention & control
  • Hyperlipidemias / blood
  • Hyperlipidemias / diet therapy*
  • Hyperlipidemias / prevention & control
  • Isoflavones / therapeutic use
  • Lipids / blood
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Soy Foods*
  • Soybean Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Up-Regulation*


  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Isoflavones
  • Lipids
  • Plant Proteins, Dietary
  • Soybean Proteins