Tofu may help women lower their risk of heart disease by 18 percent because it’s rich in naturally occurring chemicals, researchers find
- Tofu, a soy curd originally from China, is high in isoflavones
- The curd is considered a good source of vegetarian proteins and meat substitutes
- The study looked at data from 200,000 people who participated in 3 studies
Eating tofu more than once a week may reduce the risk of heart disease by 18 percent, researchers said.
And eating just once a month could reduce the risk by 12 percent, Harvard scientists found.
Tofu, a curd made from soybeans and originally from China, is high in isoflavones, a group of naturally occurring plant chemicals.
The findings suggest that eating tofu – often found in products such as vegetarian sausages and burgers – and other foods high in isoflavones, such as chickpeas, pistachios and peanuts, is linked to a moderately lower risk of heart disease.
Researchers said the effects were most pronounced in younger women and postmenopausal women who did not use hormones, but they also emphasized that the overall quality of a person’s diet was still very important.
Eating tofu (shown left) has been linked to a moderately lower risk of heart disease
Lead research author Dr. Qi Sun said that countries where people traditionally eat isoflavone-rich diets, such as China and Japan, have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease compared to countries where the population follows a largely meat-rich and vegetable-poor diet.
But Dr. Sun, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, added that more research was needed on the potential benefits of tofu and isoflavones and how it relates to heart disease.
She said, “Other human studies and animal studies of isoflavones, tofu and cardiovascular risk markers have also shown positive effects, so people at increased risk of developing heart disease should evaluate their diet.
“When it is full of unhealthy foods, such as red meat, sugary drinks and refined carbohydrates, they should switch to healthier alternatives.
Tofu is a type of bean curd that originated in China and is a staple of many vegetarian dishes
“Tofu and other isoflavone-rich plant foods are excellent protein sources and alternatives to animal proteins.”
But she added, “Despite these findings, I don’t think tofu is a miracle cure in any way. Overall nutritional quality is still critical to consider, and tofu can be a very healthy part. ‘
The study looked at data from 200,000 people who participated in three prospective health and nutrition studies. After eliminating other factors known to increase heart risk, the researchers found that eating tofu more than once a week was associated with an 18 percent lower risk of heart disease, or 12 percent for those taking once a month or less tofu.
Dietary data was updated with patient studies performed every two to four years.
Dr. Sun said that one explanation could be that younger women who are more physically active and exercise more tend to follow healthier, plant-based diets that may contain more isoflavones, such as tofu.
The observational study is published in Circulation, the flagship of the American Heart Association.