November 5/Obesity, Fitness & Wellness Week -- A new study examines how a certain naturally occurring component of soy may enhance the function of arteries in stroke patients and help all Americans keep heart healthy. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the nation's number-one killer while stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States.

The study, published recently in the European Heart Journal by researchers at the University of Hong Kong, found a diet rich in soybeans and soy isoflavones boosts artery health. Isoflavones are natural compounds found in soy that, although different from the hormone estrogen, do exert a mild estrogen-like effect under certain conditions.

The researchers recruited 102 stroke patients, randomly assigned daily intake of 80mg soy isoflavones supplements to 50 patients and gave a placebo to the remainder for 12 weeks. The study found that the participants who consumed soy isoflavones had a significant increase in flow-mediated dilation, the measure of a blood vessel's healthy ability to relax.

The dilation of arterial blood vessels leads to a decrease in blood pressure and reduces the risk of stroke. The researchers note, "These findings may have important implications for the use of isoflavone for secondary prevention in patients with cardiovascular disease, on top of conventional treatments."

From the November 10, 2008, Prepared Foods e-Flash