For many years, a number of scientists as well as intuitionalists have believed that there is connection between the consumption of Soya and major health issues. As a result, a major study was made, initially in the United States and more recently in the UK to examine in the first instance the effect of Soya on cholesterol. The results have proven to be conclusive, and have resulted in the Joint Health Claims Initiative, (JHCI) giving their approval to the inclusion of a significant statement, which can be featured on the packaging of products containing Soya protein. The statement is clearly confirms that the inclusion of ‘at least 25g of Soya per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat, can help reduce blood cholesterol levels.’
What is the Joint Health Claims Initiative?
The JHCI is a unique venture involving consumer organisations, enforcement authorities and industry associations in the UK. Its primary function is to operate a Code of Practice for making health claims about food. An expert committee, consisting of scientists, reviews all the scientific evidence that has been submitted both ‘for’ and ‘against’ the claim to ensure that an unbiased assessment has been made. Consequently any approved health claim is based on a significant weight of evidence, ensuring that consumers are not in any way misled or confused when making good food choices.
Although the exact mechanisms by which Soya protein exerts its cholesterol lowering properties are still under investigation, there is extensive evidence for Soya’s cholesterol lowering abilities over and above those obtained by consuming a diet that is low in fat, rich in fibre, fruit and vegetables. The JHCI claim serves to reinforce the scientific opinion that inclusion of 25g Soya protein/day can help towards lowering blood cholesterol levels.
- Research has indicated a very strong link between serum cholesterol levels and prevalence of Coronary Heart Disease
- A 1% reduction in cholesterol levels is thought to result in a 2% reduction in the risk of Coronary heart disease
- In addition to a ‘healthy diet’, certain foods including Soya have been identified as having a significant role in lowering blood cholesterol levels
- Consuming 25g of Soya protein a day has demonstrated a reduction in total cholesterol of 0.23mmol/l, which could equate to 10% reduction in the risk of Coronary Heart disease.
- The mechanism of Soya’s cholesterol lowering abilities is not yet completely understood, although a number of suggestions have been proposed e.g. altered liver metabolism, interaction with oestrogen receptors, an increase in bile acid excretion and/or a change in thyroid status
- The strength of evidence for Soya’s cholesterol lowering properties has resulted in the approved health claim in the UK for foods containing Soya protein:
- Today in the UK there are a broad and varied selection of foods that all provide high levels of Soya protein, these include Soya milk, Soya yoghurts, desserts, tofu, Soya mince, vegetarian sausages and burgers, together with a wide range of bread and bakery products, making it easy for the consumer to maintain a healthy level of intake whilst enjoying a varied diet.