Iron-controlling Molecule in Soy, Not Plant Estrogens, Found to Reduce Cardiovascular Disease Risks; Throws Cholesterol Theory of Heart Disease Out the Window

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Researchers find age-related iron accumulation raises risk markers for cardiovascular disease. Risk factors can be reversed with rice bran molecule, as an alternative to soy.

Once women begin to lose control of iron by cessation of menstruation either via menopause or early hysterectomy, they will begin to accumulate iron as adult males do. Males begin accumulating iron after full growth is achieved, around age 18, and by age 40 have double the iron load as an equal-aged female and twice the rate of heart disease

Researchers have now shown that an iron-controlling molecule in soy protein, and not the widely touted phyto (plant) estrogens, is responsible for reductions in cardiovascular disease risks. Phytoestrogens in soy protein had no effect on cardiovascular disease risk markers such as homocysteine, C-reactive protein or iron accumulation.

The Food & Drug Administration approved health claims for soy protein in 1999 as a food that reduces the risk for heart disease. But the ingredients in soy that produce this health benefit were not identified at the time.

The research study, published in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and conducted by researchers at Iowa State University, suggests iron accumulation is a more important factor than cholesterol in predicting future heart attacks and strokes, says Bill Sardi, president of Knowledge of Health, Inc, San Dimas, California. "In fact, C-reactive protein is considered to be a better predictor of future heart attacks than cholesterol," says Sardi.

Researchers gave postmenopausal women high and low amounts of soy isoflavones, the weak estrogen-like molecules found in soy, and high (650-780 mg) and low (220 mg) amounts of IP6 phytate, an iron-controlling molecule, in a 40-gram daily soy protein supplement. Only the IP6 phytate significantly lowered iron, homocysteine and C-reactive protein levels, which are markers for cardiovascular disease, says Sardi.

The IP6 phytate from soy is also found in the bran portion of whole grains. IP6 phytate has been mischaracterized as an "anti-nutrient" says Sardi, because it may reduce iron levels in growing children and fertile women who both tend to be anemic. But in full-grown males and postmenopausal females who are prone to iron overload, IP6 phytate may be the key dietary molecule that controls cardiovascular risks.

"Once women begin to lose control of iron by cessation of menstruation either via menopause or early hysterectomy, they will begin to accumulate iron as adult males do. Males begin accumulating iron after full growth is achieved, around age 18, and by age 40 have double the iron load as an equal-aged female and twice the rate of heart disease," says Sardi.

"American medicine appears to be on the wrong road in preventing heart disease," says Sardi, noting that cholesterol reduction has not dented cardiovascular mortality rates significantly. About the same number of Americans succumb to mortal heart attacks each year, despite widespread programs to reduce cholesterol by diet or medication, he notes.

Postmenopausal women, whose iron levels are relatively high, are 3.4 times more at risk for cardiovascular disease than premenopausal women, whose iron levels are lower.

Consumers can also acquire phytate IP6 as an extract of rice bran as a dietary supplement (produced by Tsuno Foods of Wakayama, Japan ( http://www.tsuno.co.jp ), for brands like Source Naturals, Jarrow Formulas and Purity Products). Many whole grains have been engineered to reduce bran/IP6 factors in order to minimize anemia in young children and fertile females, but this removes the protective iron-controlling factor for full-grown males and postmenopausal females. For adults who wish to avoid soy or are allergic to soy products, supplementation with oral phytate IP6 rice bran extract in the range of 800-2000 mg per day may be beneficial for full-grown males and postmenopausal females.

Bill Sardi is author of the ebook, The Iron Time Bomb ( http://www.naturalhealthlibrarian.com )

Reference: Hanson LN, Engelman HM, Alekel DL, et al (Dept. Food Science and Human Nutrition, Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa), Effects of soy isoflavones and phytate on homocysteine, C-reactive protein, and iron status in postmenopausal women. American Journal Clinical Nutrition 84: 774-80, 2006.

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