An Important Source of Heart-Healthy Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids

Des Moines, IA – Soyfoods have long been recognized as excellent sources of high-quality protein that are low in saturated fat.  Now a recent science advisory from the American Heart Association (AHA) highlights the value of many soyfoods as important sources of heart-healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids.  The advisory, published in the January issue “Circulation”, the Journal of the American Heart Association, summarizes the current evidence on the consumption of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids and coronary heart disease risk. Based on information from a variety of studies and experiments the advisory indicates that the consumption of at least 5% to 10% of energy (calories) from omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. The AHA supports the 5% to 10% recommendation as a part its lifestyle and dietary recommendations.

According to nutrition and soyfoods expert Dr. Mark Messina, “There has been somewhat of a controversy about omega-6 fatty acids because, although they lower cholesterol, there was speculation that they may also be disadvantageous because of their effect on the metabolism of omega-3 fatty acids and because of hormone-like compounds produced from omega-6 fatty acids themselves.  Claims have been made that these hormone-like substances produced from omega-6 fatty acids cause inflammation and thereby raise risk of heart disease, and that too much omega-6 in the diet reduces the anti-inflammatory effects and coronary benefits of omega-3 fatty acids.  Now, after an extensive review of the scientific literature, the AHA has dismissed these claims as unfounded and concluded that Americans should make sure to get sufficient omega-6 fatty acids in their diet.” Messina is adjunct associate professor at Loma Linda University and president of Nutrition Matters, Inc.

The soybean is one of the few plant foods high in fat – mostly the beneficial polyunsaturated fats, and in particular omega-3 fatty acids, especially linolenic acid, one of the two essential fatty acids.  Most of the fat in the soybean is in the form of the omega-6 fatty acid linoleic acid, which is the other essential fatty acid.  Linoleic acid is a polyunsaturated fatty acid known to lower cholesterol. The just-released science advisory from the AHA serves to emphasize the ability of omega-6 fatty acids to lower blood cholesterol and to reduce risk of coronary heart disease. 

In addition to providing both of essential fatty acids, soy-based foods provide high quality protein and an assortment of vitamins and minerals.  Look for soyfoods made from the whole soybean: soynuts, edamame, tofu and certain types of soymilk.

In 1999, the FDA approved a health claim for soy protein which states that 25 gram of soy protein per day, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. Three servings of soyfoods can provide the recommended 25 grams.

For more information on soyfoods and nutrition and for recipes and serving suggestions visit www.thesoyfoodscouncil.com . To read the complete summary of the AHA Advisory “Omega-6 Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease Risk” go to circ.ahajournals.org .

The Soyfoods Council is a non-profit organization, created and funded by Iowa Soybean farmers, providing a complete resource to educate and inform healthcare professionals, consumers and the foodservice market about the many benefits of soyfoods. The Council represents nearly all facets of the food industry, including soyfoods product manufacturers, ingredient suppliers, state and national soybean checkoff boards, food retailers and distributors, health and foodservice professionals. Iowa is the country’s number one grower of soybeans and is the Soyfoods Capital of the world.

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