Soy and fish as features of the Japanese diet and cardiovascular disease risks

PLoS One. 2017 Apr 21;12(4):e0176039. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0176039. eCollection 2017.


In the World Health Organization (WHO)-coordinated Cardiovascular Disease and Alimentary Comparison Study, isoflavones (I; biomarker for dietary soy) and taurine (T; biomarker for dietary fish) in 24-hour-urine (24U) were inversely related to coronary heart disease (CHD) mortality. High levels of these biomarkers are found in Japanese people, whose CHD mortality is lowest among developed countries. We analyzed the association of these biomarkers with cardiovascular disease risk in the Japanese to know their health effects within one ethnic population. First, to compare the Japanese intake of I and T with international intakes, the ratios of 24UI and 24UT to creatinine from the WHO Study were divided into quintiles for analysis. The ratio for the Japanese was the highest in the highest quintiles for both I and T, reaching 88.1%, far higher than the average ratio for the Japanese (26.3%) in the total study population. Second, 553 inhabitants of Hyogo Prefecture, Japan, aged 30 to 79 years underwent 24-U collection and blood analyses. The 24UT and 24UI were divided into tertiles and adjusted for age and sex. The highest T tertile, compared with the lowest tertile, showed significantly higher levels of high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol (HDL-C), total cholesterol, 24U sodium (Na) and potassium (K). The highest I tertile showed significantly higher folate, 24UNa and 24UK compared with the lowest tertile. The highest tertile of both T and I showed significantly higher HDL-C, folate, and 24UNa and 24UK compared with the lowest tertile. Thus, greater consumption of fish and soy were significantly associated with higher HDL-C and folate levels, possibly a contributor to Japan having the lowest CHD mortality and longest life expectancy among developed countries. As these intakes were also associated with a high intake of salt, a low-salt intake of fish and soy should be recommended for healthy life expectancy.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Diet*
  • Female
  • Glycine max*
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Seafood*

Grants and funding

This work was supported by JSPS KAKENHI Grant Number A20256001 and by Hyogo Health Promotion Association. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.