Tofu could help women lower their risk of heart disease by 18 per cent because it is high in naturally occurring chemicals, researchers find

  • Tofu, a soybean curd that is originally from China, is high in isoflavones
  • The curd is considered a good source of vegetarian protein and meat substitute
  • The research looked at data from 200,000 people who participated in 3 studies

Eating tofu more than once a week can slash your risk of heart disease by 18 per cent, according to researchers.

And eating it just once a month could reduce the risk by 12 per cent, Harvard scientists found.

Tofu, a curd made from soybeans and originally from China, is high in isoflavones, a group of naturally occurring plant-based 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 with a moderately lower risk of heart disease.

Researchers said the effects were most pronounced among younger women and postmenopausal women not taking hormones, but they also stressed that the overall quality of an individual’s diet was still very important.

Eating Tofu (pictured left) is linked with a moderately lower risk of heart disease

Eating Tofu (pictured left) is linked with a moderately lower risk of heart disease

Lead study author Dr Qi Sun said that countries where people traditionally eat isoflavone-rich diets, such as China and Japan, have lower heart disease risk compared to those 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 into the potential benefits of tofu and isoflavones, and how this relates to heart disease.

She said: ‘Other human trials and animal studies of isoflavones, tofu and cardiovascular risk markers have also indicated positive effects, so people with an elevated risk of developing heart disease should evaluate their diets.

‘If it is packed with unhealthy foods, such as red meat, sugary beverages and refined carbohydrates, they should switch to healthier alternatives.

Tofu is a type of bean curd that originates in China and is a staple of many vegetarian dishes

Tofu is a type of bean curd that originates in China and is a staple of many vegetarian dishes

‘Tofu and other isoflavone-rich, plant-based foods are excellent protein sources and alternatives to animal proteins.’

But she added: ‘Despite these findings, I don’t think tofu is by any means a magic bullet. Overall diet quality is still critical to consider, and tofu can be a very healthy component.’

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, investigators found that eating tofu more than once a week was linked with an 18 per cent lower risk of heart disease, or 12 per cent for those eating tofu once a month or less.

Dietary data was updated using patient surveys conducted every two to four years.

Dr Sun said one explanation may be that younger women who are more physically active and get more exercise tend to follow healthier, plant-based diets that may include more isoflavone-rich foods like tofu.

The observational research was published in Circulation, the flagship journal of the American Heart Association.

 

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