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Soy nuts improve blood pressure and cholesterol

Women who eat soy nuts as their main source of protein have a low risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol levels during menopause, research shows.

Women with high blood pressure have four times the risk of heart disease as women with normal blood pressure.

Francien Welty (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston, USA) and colleagues assigned 60 postmenopausal women to eat a "therapeutic lifestyle diet" for 8 weeks and then switch to a similar diet with extra soy nuts for another 8 weeks.

The therapeutic diet consisted of healthy portions of calcium, carbohydrates, fat and less than 200mg cholesterol per week. The soy diet was similar but 25g of protein were replaced with half a cup of unsalted soy nuts.

Eating the soy nut diet significantly reduced women's diastolic and systolic blood pressure compared with the therapeutic diet alone.

Women with high blood pressure who ate the soy diet also experienced an average 11% drop in low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.

"Dietary soy may be a practical, safe and inexpensive modality to reduce blood pressure," say the scientists.

"If the findings are repeated in a larger group they may have more important implications for reducing cardiovascular risk in postmenopausal women on a population basis."