Soy protein versus soy phytoestrogens in the prevention of diet-induced coronary artery atherosclerosis of male cynomolgus monkeys.
Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 1997 Nov;17(11):2524-31. PMID: 9409223
Soy protein, long recognized as having cardiovascular benefits, is a rich source of phytoestrogens (isoflavones). To distinguish the relative contributions of the protein moiety versus the alcohol-extractable phytoestrogens for cardiovascular protection, we studied young male cynomolgus macaques fed a moderately atherogenic diet and randomly assigned to three groups. The groups differed only in the source of dietary protein, which was either casein/lactalbumin (casein, n = 27), soy protein with the phytoestrogens intact (soy+, n = 27), or soy protein with the phytoestrogens mostly extracted (soy-, n = 28). The diets were fed for 14 months. Animals fed soy+ had significantly lower total and LDL plus VLDL cholesterol concentrations compared with the other two groups. They soy+ animals had the highest HDL cholesterol concentrations, the casein group had the lowest, and the soy- group was intermediate. A subset was necropsied for atherosclerosis evaluations (n = 11 per group). Morphometric and angiochemical measures were done to quantify atherosclerosis. Coronary artery atherosclerotic lesions were smallest in the soy+ group (90% less coronary atherosclerosis than the casein group and 50% less than the soy- group), largest in the casein group, and intermediate in the soy- group. The effects of the diets on lesion size and arterial lipid measures of the peripheral arteries were similar to those in the coronary arteries, with greatest prevention of atherogenesis with soy+ and intermediate benefit with soy- relative to casein. We could not determine whether the beneficial effects seen in the soy- group relate to the protein itself or to the remaining traces of phytoestrogens. The beneficial effects of soy protein on atherosclerosis appear to be mediated primarily by the phytoestrogen component. Testicular weights were unaffected by the phytoestrogens.