I imagine that, like me, the topic of soy comes up in various conversations you have with your patients. There is little that is black and white in medicine; it is generally shades of gray, and soy is no exception. Having said that, for most people, soy has many health benefits, from improving heart, bone, and brain health to decreasing the risk of certain cancers. Soy is generally consumed in one of two forms: as a food or a supplement. While research is somewhat mixed, most of it points to positive results for both soy foods and supplements. Supplements generally contain refined soy components in the form of isolated soy protein and soy-derived isoflavones, including genistein, daidzein, and glycitein. Recent studies have focused on a metabolite called equol, which is a breakdown product of daidzein formed by certain bacteria in the gut of some people. The equol producers among us may see more benefits from soy than those of us who are non-equol producers. As with various foods or concentrated phytonutrients found in supplements, certain populations require special consideration and caution. We’ve outlined all the indications and contraindications in a balanced view of soy foods and supplements in two resources: one handout for you to give to patients and one that is a bit more technical that we think will be useful reading for you or for sharing with colleagues.
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