Health Alert: Isoflavone myths

NATIONAL - Because hormone replacement therapy is considered risky, many women have turned to natural soy supplements to try to prevent postmenopausal bone loss. The products may not be all they're cracked up to be.

Mary Enos is in her 60's and postmenopausal - a time when a woman's level of estrogen decreases and her risk of bone loss increases.

"I think the thing that you're afraid of as you age is, is the hip gonna' break and you fall rather than you fall and break the hip," explained Enos.

The busy restaurant manager took part in a study to see if she could supplement with soy to prevent fractures. Purdue researchers are studying soy isoflavones.

Dr. Connie Weaver says, "We were interested in studying whether all the isoflavone supplements that are on the market that say they can suppress bone loss in postmenopausal women. Do they really?"

According to the findings of this particular study - most don't.

"None of them worked, actually," said Dr. Weaver.

Mary was disappointed when she heard the news, "They make these claims that the pills are, you know, gonna' increase bone density, or whatever, but there's no scientific proof behind that."

But the soy studies aren't over by a long shot. It's possible the effectiveness of the supplements is a timing issue - working better at the start of menopause than at the end.

Said Dr. Weaver, "We're busily trying to find out which ones work and in whom, because there are various theories that some people respond and some people don't."

For now, Doctor Weaver says the safest way to fend off fractures is to get enough calcium and Vitamin D, eat a healthy diet and exercise.

Doctor Weaver says results of studies looking at who responds best to soy supplements, if anyone, should be revealed in about two years.

Posted by Bryce Mursch