DALLAS -- Veggie burgers and tofu might not be so great at warding off heart disease after all.
An American Heart Association committee reviewed a decade of studies on soy's benefits and came up with results that are casting doubt on the health claim that soy-based foods and supplements lower cholesterol significantly.
The findings could lead the Food and Drug Administration to reevaluate rules that allow companies to tout a cholesterol-lowering benefit on the labels of soy-based food.
The panel also found that neither soy nor the soy component isoflavone reduced symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, and that isoflavones don't help prevent breast, uterine, or prostate cancer. Results were mixed on whether soy prevented postmenopausal bone loss.
Based on its findings, the committee said it would not recommend using isoflavone supplements in food or pills. It concluded that soy-containing foods and supplements did not lower cholesterol significantly, and it said so in a statement recently published in the journal Circulation.
Nutrition specialists say soy-based foods still are good because they often are eaten in place of less healthy fare like burgers and hot dogs. But they don't have as much direct benefit as had been hoped on cholesterol, one of the top risk factors for heart disease.
''We don't want to lull people into a false sense of security that by eating soy they can solve the problem" with cholesterol, said Dr. Michael Crawford, chief of clinical cardiology at the University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
''If they are radically altering their diet where they're only eating soy in the hopes that this is going to bring their cholesterol down, they're deluding themselves," said Crawford, who was not on the panel that issued the new statement.
The FDA in 1999 started allowing manufacturers to say soy products might cut the risk of heart disease after studies showed at least 25 grams of soy protein a day lowered cholesterol. A year later, the Heart Association recommended that soy be included in a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.