Soy Protein and the Heart Health Claim?
People are becoming more and more aware of what they eat. And it’s not just about how much, how fatty, how sweet, or how salty everything is, but it’s about how nutritious it is and what health benefits it has. In October 2017, the FDA decided to look closely into the health claims of soy protein. The main interest in this case is whether or not the consumption of soy protein has any real benefit in people’s cardiovascular health.
The “Heart Health” Claim
This claim allowed manufacturers to put the “heart health” label on their products, which surely drove up sales among those who are careful with their health. According to the Hartman Group, the “heart health” claim is the one consumers respond best to when shopping.
The “heart health” claim dates back to 1999. This was a time when people were constantly told to cut back on fatty foods like eggs, butter, whole milk, fatty fish. and meat. This is when replacements such as soy products started to gain more ground.
Since 1999, no other report was made to prove or deny the claim of the heart health benefits of soy protein.
Even without taking down the claim, studies done in recent years show that eating soy foods can only help lower cholesterol by 3%, which is not a lot. When the claim was first made, every little bit counted. Otherwise, it is cholesterol-free and it is low in saturated fat.
What Consumers Think
What do consumers think? Or, better said, what are consumers led to think? They are led to think that eating soy products will help their cardiovascular health. What they do not know is that the claim is based on a minimum amount of evidence. Also, studies have shown that people who are trying to improve their heart health in a limited time frame and who consume large amounts of products with soy protein run the risk of developing acid reflux or gout.
How This Affects the Industry
As expected, taking the most appealing claim off the label of soy protein has stirred an uproar in the industry. There is also concern about people extending the decision to a conclusion on all soy-based products. This type of information can be confusing when people know too little about the differences between soy protein and soy products. And the list is not short. We are talking about tofu, soy milk, and other soy derivatives intended replace meat in a vegetarian diet.
FDA Course of Action
Since, in the past, several groups of food were reinstated as highly nutritious and not that harmful as was first thought, (like eggs and fat dairy products) now is the time for make-believe benefits to come under close scrutiny. The soy protein example is actually the first of its kind.
The FDA is currently questioning the claim of soy protein in this context: many foods that are considered to be low in nutrients are being passed off in favor of their fat-free counterparts. Since it was established that there is a difference between “good fat” and “bad fat,” avoiding healthy and fatty foods is no longer necessary.
Studies done throughout the year have proven inconsistent in supporting the claim. And it seems that the revoking of this claim is something the American Heart Associationhas long been asking the FDA to do. The main reason for this is that the benefit of soy for the cardiovascular system is considered to be minimum, at best. This is not an incentive to drive up consumption as the benefits are not proportional to the quantities ingested. Going back to the very important point of talking about supplements, you must take note of the fact that the twenty-five grams of soy per day is still enough. Increasing this dosage will not yield greater benefits.
It is important to note that the FDA course of action is mainly directed toward soy protein that is taken as a supplement, and not soy products as a general market.