"The health claim is very specific, as are all the health claims that are approved by the FDA," Bobroff said. "It ties the intake of soy protein in conjunction with a low fat, low cholesterol diet in relationship to heart disease."
Bobroff said to place the health claim on its label, a product must provide a minimum of 6.25 grams of soy per serving, which is about one-quarter of the 25 grams per day that appears to be effective in combating heart disease.
"The research shows that 25 grams of soy protein in the diet, along with having a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet, is protective against heart disease," Bobroff said. "Soy would be just one part of an overall healthy diet. We can't forget about the other foods we need -- vegetables, fruits, dairy and meat."
Amendments to the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in 1990 gave the FDA the authority to regulate the use of health claims on food labels. Since then, the FDA has approved eight "substance-disease" relationship claims, and Bobroff said the public relies on the FDA's approval of these health claims.
"More and more people understand that if the health claim is on the label, it's believable, it's been approved by a government agency, it's been reviewed by scientists and it means there is enough evidence in the scientific literature to support the claim," Bobroff said.
Bobroff said soy contains phytochemicals called isoflavones that appear to be protective against certain diseases. Some of the isoflavones work to decrease levels of cholesterol, especially low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the type of cholesterol that can damage blood vessels.
Bobroff said other phytochemicals found in soy are similar to natural estrogens. She said this is what allows soy to be beneficial to women as they approach menopause.