July 27, 2020

Soy food, metabolism and the microbiome

Consumption of soy foods may shape the microbiome and protect against hypertension only in individuals with soy-responsive microbiota, Vanderbilt researchers have discovered.

Soy-rich diets have been associated with reduced blood pressure and protection against atherosclerosis, but the mechanisms by which soy may improve cardiac health have not been fully explored.  

Reporting recently in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular DiseasesJane Ferguson, PhD, and colleagues demonstrated that soy intake affects blood pressure by modulating the gut microbiome, the diversity of bacteria that live in the human gastrointestinal system.  

Healthy individuals with high soy consumption had lower levels of two bacteria groups, Prevotella and Dialister 

Prevotella was associated with increased blood pressure. Individuals who had this bacteria type had a significantly higher BMI (body mass index) as well as more circulating markers of inflammation, but only in the absence of Dialister 

Interestingly, these cardiac risk factors were absent in individuals who had both bacteria groups, suggesting that the gut microbiome is an important intermediate in the interplay between dietary soy intake and systemic metabolism, the researchers concluded.

This research was supported by an American Heart Association Scientist Development Grant, grants from the National Institutes of Health (DK058404, DK095913, DK117144, HL142856), and the Data Science Initiative Award to co-authors at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.