Beyond the Cholesterol-Lowering Effect of Soy Protein: A Review of the Effects of Dietary Soy and Its Constituents on Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

Nutrients. 2017 Mar 24;9(4):324. doi: 10.3390/nu9040324.


The hypocholesterolemic effect of soy is well-documented and this has led to the regulatory approval of a health claim relating soy protein to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, soybeans contain additional components, such as isoflavones, lecithins, saponins and fiber that may improve cardiovascular health through independent mechanisms. This review summarizes the evidence on the cardiovascular benefits of non-protein soy components in relation to known CVD risk factors such as hypertension, hyperglycemia, inflammation, and obesity beyond cholesterol lowering. Overall, the available evidence suggests non-protein soy constituents improve markers of cardiovascular health; however, additional carefully designed studies are required to independently elucidate these effects. Further, work is also needed to clarify the role of isoflavone-metabolizing phenotype and gut microbiota composition on biological effect.

Keywords: Dietary soy; cardiovascular disease; cholesterol; functional foods; isoflavones; lipids; obesity; soy protein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticholesteremic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Diet
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Isoflavones / pharmacology
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Risk Factors
  • Satiation
  • Soybean Proteins / pharmacology*
  • Soybeans / chemistry*
  • Triglycerides / blood


  • Anticholesteremic Agents
  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, HDL
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Isoflavones
  • Soybean Proteins
  • Triglycerides