Soya milk 'protects the liver' from dangerous build-up of fat



08:57 GMT, 23 April 2012

Soy protein appears to help repair a pathway in the liver involved in fat metabolism

Soy protein appears to help repair a pathway in the liver involved in breaking down fat

Soya milk is not just good for those who are lactose intolerant – researchers have found it's good for the liver as well.

A team from the University of Illinois found soy protein, which is also found in tofu, may reduce the build-up of harmful fat in the liver.

Scientists in the US compared the livers of lean and obese rats fed a diet containing either milk or soy protein.

No differences were seen in lean animals. But obese rats fed soy showed a 20 per cent reduction in overall levels of fat accumulation in the liver.

Triglycerides, a type of fat known to be harmful to the heart, were reduced by the same level.

This means soya could protect against 'fatty liver disease', a condition linked to obesity that can lead to liver failure.

Study leader Dr Hong Chen, from the University of Illinois, said: 'Almost a third of American adults have fatty liver disease, many of them without symptoms. Obesity is a key risk factor for this condition, which can lead to liver failure.

'When fat accumulates in an organ that's not supposed to store fat, like the liver, that organ's vital function can be dangerously compromised.'

The findings are being presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in San Diego, California.

Soy protein appears to help repair a key signalling pathway in the liver involved in fat metabolism, said the scientists. This made it harder for the liver to become a 'dumping ground' for excess fat.

'In many obese persons there's a sort of traffic problem, and when more fat can make its way out of the liver, there's less pressure on the organ,' said Dr Chen.

It follows a recent study from Delaware University that found drinking two glasses of soya milk a day eased hot flushes in menopausal women.

Hot flushes occur suddenly, lasting
about four minutes on average, and produce an uncomfortable feeling of
intense heat. Sufferers may break out in sweats during the day, while
frequent hot flushes at night can severely disrupt sleep.

Professor Melissa Melby found the ingredient reduced the frequency of this uncomfortable symptom by 20 per cent and severity by 26 per cent, following a comprehensive review.