soybean field

Research Suggests Soyfoods May Play a Role in Reducing the Risk of Diabetes

Photo courtesy of The Soyfoods Council

Through its public education initiative, USSEC shares soy-related research, and highlights the work of experts conducting studies on the health effects of eating soy.
According to Mexican researchers, one benefit of soyfoods is improving insulin sensitivity and reducing the risk of developing diabetes. Nimbe Torres, Ph.D., and Armando R. Tovar, Ph.D., both from the Department of Physiology of Nutrition at the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, have been conducting diabetes-related research focused on the effects of soy protein and soyfoods.
Insulin helps cells (muscle, fat and liver cells) absorb glucose and use it for energy. With the condition of insulin resistance, the body does not effectively use the insulin it produces, which increases the risk for type 2 diabetes. Among the clinical trials Drs. Torres and Tovar have conducted is one using different functional foods, including 25 grams (g) of soy protein, as part of a dietary strategy.
“During the development of obesity, several metabolic abnormalities appear gradually. One of them is insulin resistance,” say Drs. Torres and Tovar. “Over time, the development of insulin resistance can lead to type 2 diabetes.”
Research conducted by Drs. Torres and Tovar takes on new relevance in an era when diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. In the U.S., a 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report found that 29.1 million people (9.3 percent of the population) have diabetes. The percentage of people with diabetes is even higher in Mexico. According to the International Diabetes Federation, there were 9 million cases of diabetes in Mexico in last year (approximately 12 percent of the country’s population). However, making diet and lifestyle changes—including maintaining a healthy weight and increasing physical activity—can delay or even prevent diabetes.
“Previous studies in our department with patients with type 2 diabetes have demonstrated that adding soy protein to the breakfast meal helps to limit the rise in blood glucose levels, which will in turn helps to minimize damage to the arteries which is common in people with diabetes,” state Drs. Torres and Tovar. In addition to eating at least 25 g of soy protein a day, they recommend that those with diabetes reduce their intake of refined carbohydrates and lower their intake of saturated fats. “Preliminary results have shown that the adoption of this dietary strategy significantly reduces insulin resistance and glycated hemoglobin, an indication of better long-term glucose control.”
According to Mark Messina, Ph.D., M.S., “People with diabetes are at greater risk of developing heart disease and renal disease. There is evidence that soyfoods are protective against both of those diseases, so there are several reasons for people with diabetes to make soy a part of their diet.”