Soy & Diabetes

Kozzi-food_grains-441x294Soy is one of the most common vegetable proteins in the world. Having existed for roughly 5,000 years, soy, when absorbed into the bloodstream, exhibits hypoglycemic properties and also provides nourishment to the body with the many essential amino acids it contains. Soy has, for a long time, been considered a common alternative to dairy such as whole milk and yogurt, as well as other proteins, such as beef, sold in supermarkets.

What has made soy such a popular protein to study is the fact that there is fiber present in it. The fiber is soluble and when in the body, it binds to the carbohydrates allowing for a slower digestion process as food goes through the body. The National Soybean Research Laboratory states that soy should be consumed following a meal, as it is best processed by the digestive system when the stomach is full of food already.

The Diabetes Food Pyramid, which was created to ensure that diabetics follow a strict and regimented diet, has long recommended the introduction of soy as an alternative in providing vital nutrition to the body. The Diabetes Food Pyramid’s other recommendations in addition to soy have been an incorporation of more fruits and vegetables into one’s diet. Many diabetes recipes in cookbooks contain a plethora of soy food products such as soy butter, edamame and soy burgers. By adding soy to one’s diet, it allows glucose levels to be better controlled, and for any complications that may arise from Type 2 diabetes to be kept to a minimum.

Scientists at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, recently researched soy further and found that it does show significant promise in decreasing one’s risk of developing diabetes. A nutritional scientist at the university, Young-Cheul Kim, notes that, “What we eat can have a tremendous impact on health outcomes by interacting with certain genes. Recent research also suggests that diet can even change the number of a certain gene, leading to biological changes.” It appears that the particular compounds found in soy, known as isoflavones, are the underlying factors that aid in lowering diabetes risk. The isoflavones were studied by the scientists at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, and it was discovered that adding soy protein to one’s diet can indeed improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood glucose levels considerably and potentially decrease the risk associated between diabetes and heart disease.

Southern Illinois University also found similar results in their research on the isoflavones in soy. “Our results suggest that soy isoflavones exert anti-diabetic effects by targeting fat cell-specific transcription factors and the downstream signaling molecules that are important for glucose uptake and thus insulin sensitivity. Although some details remain to be worked out, our data provide an additional molecular basis for the mechanism of insulin-sensitizing action by soy isoflavones. These new findings help fill a critical gap between epidemiological observations and clinical studies on the anti-diabetic benefits of dietary soy,” Kim states. Further studies at other colleges and universities will be performed that hopefully will reveal even more information on the potential benefits that soy provides.

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