Author(s): Kirk EA, Sutherland P, Wang SA, Chait A, LeBoeuf RC
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Abstract Susceptibility to atherosclerosis is determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors, including diet. Consumption of diets rich in soy protein has been claimed to protect against the development of atherosclerosis. Potential mechanisms include cholesterol lowering, inhibition of lipoprotein oxidation and inhibition of cell proliferation by soy proteins or isoflavones, such as genistein, that are present in soy. This study was designed to determine whether soy isoflavones confer protection against atherosclerosis in mice and whether they reduce serum cholesterol levels and lipoprotein oxidation. C57BL/6 and LDL receptor-deficient (LDLr-null) mice were fed soy protein-based, high fat diets with isoflavones present (IF+, 20.85 g/100 g protein, 0.027 g/100 g genistein, 0.009 g/100 g daidzein) or diets from which isoflavones, and possibly other components, had been extracted (IF-, 20.0 g/100 g protein, 0.002 g/100 g genistein, 0.001 g/100 g daidzein). Because LDLr-null mice develop extensive atherosclerosis and hypercholesterolemia after minimal time on a high fat diet, they were fed the diets for 6 wk, whereas C57BL/6 mice were fed the diets for 10 wk. Plasma cholesterol levels did not differ between LDLr-null mice fed IF- and those fed IF+, but were 30\% lower in C57BL/6 mice fed the IF+ diet than in those fed the IF- diet. Susceptibility of LDL to oxidative modification, measured as the lag phase of conjugated diene formation in LDLr-null mice, was not altered by isoflavone consumption. All LDLr-null mice developed atherosclerosis, and the presence or deficiency of dietary isoflavones did not influence atherosclerotic lesion area. In contrast, atherosclerotic lesion area was significantly reduced in C57BL/6 mice fed IF+ compared with those fed IF-. Thus, this study demonstrates that although the isoflavone-containing diet resulted in a reduction in cholesterol levels in C57BL/6 mice, it had no effect on cholesterol levels or on susceptibility of LDL to oxidative modification in LDLr-null mice. Further, dietary isoflavones did not protect against the development of atherosclerosis in LDLr-null mice but did decrease atherosclerosis in C57BL/6 mice. These findings suggest that soy isoflavones might lower cholesterol levels by increasing LDL receptor activity, and the reduction in cholesterol may offer some protection against atherosclerosis.
This article was published in J Nutr
and referenced in Journal of Microbial & Biochemical Technology