Certain plant foods (nuts and soy protein) and food components (viscous fibers and plant sterols) have been permitted by the FDA to carry a heart health claim based on their cholesterol-lowering ability. The FDA is currently considering revoking the heart health claim for soy protein based on the tentative conclusion that the scientific evidence currently available does not support its previous determination that there is significant scientific agreement. We performed a meta-analysis of the 46 controlled trials on which the FDA will base its decision to revoke the heart health claim for soy protein.
Methods and Results: We included the 46 trials on adult men and women, with baseline circulating LDL cholesterol concentrations ranging from 110 to 201 mg/dL, as identified by the FDA, that studied the effects of soy protein on LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol (TC) compared with non-soy protein. Two independent reviewers extracted relevant data. Data were pooled by the generic inverse variance method with a random effects model and expressed as mean differences with 95% CI. Heterogeneity was assessed and quantified. Of the 46 trials identified by the FDA, 43 provided data for meta-analyses. Of these, 41 provided data for LDL cholesterol, and all 43 provided data for TC. Soy protein at a median dose of 25 g/d during a median follow-up of 6 wk decreased LDL cholesterol by 4.76 mg/dL (95% CI: -6.71, -2.80 mg/dL, P < 0.0001; I2 = 55%, P < 0.0001) and decreased TC by 6.41 mg/dL (95% CI: -9.30, -3.52 mg/dL, P < 0.0001; I2 = 74%, P < 0.0001) compared with non-soy protein controls. There was no dose-response effect or evidence of publication bias for either outcome. Inspection of the individual trial estimates indicated most trials ( approximately 75%) showed a reduction in LDL cholesterol (range: -0.77 to -58.60 mg/dL), although only a minority of these were individually statistically significant.
Conclusions: Soy protein significantly reduced LDL cholesterol by approximately 3-4% in adults. Our data support the advice given to the general public internationally to increase plant protein intake. This trial was registered at clinicaltrials.gov as NCT03468127.
The Journal of Nutrition
Blanco Mejia S, Messina M, Li SS et al. (2019) A meta-analysis of 46 studies identified by the FDA demonstrates that soy protein decreases circulating LDL and total cholesterol concentrations in adults. J. Nutr. 149, 968-981