Soy may reduce risk of Alzheimer's disease in postmenopausal women

SAN DIEGO, April 3 - Soy may help protect against the onset of Alzheimer's disease, especially in postmenopausal women, according to research presented today at the 221st national meeting of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.

A three-year animal study shows that plant-based estrogens found in soy, called phytoestrogens, appear to reduce the number of protein changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease. The irreversible brain disorder, which affects about 4 million people in the United States, is an increasing national health problem, according to the National Institutes of Health. Nearly half of all people 85 and older have Alzheimer's.

Estrogen is known for its ability to reduce a woman's risk for heart disease and osteoporosis, and there is epidemiological evidence that suggests it can protect against Alzheimer's disease, according to Helen Kim, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and lead researcher for the study.

Kim conducted the study to see if certain isoflavones - phytoestrogens - found in soy, "could act like estrogen and protect against biochemical events associated with Alzheimer's disease." The study was done with aged female monkeys that had their ovaries removed. They are considered to be animal models for human menopause, she noted.

During the three-year study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, 45 monkeys were fed one of three diets - soy with isoflavones, soy without isoflavones and Premarin, a commonly prescribed estrogen replacement for women. Fifteen monkeys were in each diet group. The scientists then examined the brain tissue of three monkeys in each group for some of the protein changes that are markers of Alzheimer's disease.

This is the first time that soy isoflavones have been examined for estrogenic activity against Alzheimer's in the postmenopausal brains of monkeys, according to Kim.

Contact: Charmayne Marsh
American Chemical Society

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