The Value of Soya for Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a condition of “porous bones”, whereby the density and quality of skeletal bones is reduced. This results in a weakness of skeleton and an increased risk of fractures.

Women are ten times more likely to suffer from osteoporosis than men. However, men can also be affected. One in three women AND one in five men over the age of 50 are affected by osteoporosis.

After the age of about 30-35 the action of the bone cells responsible for making the new bone tissue becomes slower relative to those re-absorbing the old tissue. This in turn leads to negative changes to bone structure, and fractures occur when the bone becomes porous and brittle. This can be extremely painful and debilitating, and in some cases fatal.

A bone density measurement is the best predictor of osteoporosis, yet as much as 40% of bone tissue must be lost before it is revealed.

Clinical Risk Factors

  • Advanced age
  • Previous fracture after minimal trauma
  • Low BMI
  • Family history of OP
  • Female gender
  • Premature menopause
  • Certain diseases: Cushing’s, thyrotoxicosis, R.A., amenorrhoea

Lifestyle Risk Factors

  • Alcohol consumption (>3 drinks/day)
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Eating disorders
  • Excessive leanness

Secondary Risk Factors

  • Hypogonadism (men and women)
  • Other contributing factors to osteoporosis, including side-effects of certain medications, such as:
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Thyroid hormone
  • Anticocoagulants
  • Thiazolidinediones (eg Metformin)
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Chemotherapy
  • Antidepressants
  • Loop diuretics
  • Progestins
  • Proton pump inhibitors
  • Immunosuppressants
  • Fertility drugs (gonadotropin-releasing hormone)
  • Antacids
  • Vitamin A and retinoidsd diet

Other Risk Factors

  • Inactivity ) due to injury / sedentary lifestyle)
  • Propensity to falls (due to mental impairment / gait and balance disorders / weakness and immobility / visual impairment / environmental hazards)


Go for regular bone density scans (frequency depends on risk)

Basic lifestyle tips

  • Eat a balanced diet (moderate amounts of foods from ALL Food Groups). Use a soya-based food DAILY**
  • Take a good calcium supplement, especially where the diet is deficient in major calcium sources, such as dairy and sardines
  • Physiological ways to stimulate bone formation include doing physical and weight-bearing exercises.
  • No smoking
  • Moderate intake of alcohol (max of 1 unit/day for women, and 2 units/day for men)
  • Avoid drugs
  • Minimize caffeine intake
  • Menopausal women should discuss the use of HRT with their GP / Gynaecologist.

Understand the role of oestrogen in the development of osteoporosis:

Oestrogens play a role in:

  • growth and function of body tissues (including those involved in the reproductive process, as well as other tissues throughout the body).
  • bone formation and maintenance: Oestrogen helps prevent calcium from being leached from the bones
  • heart protection
  • influencing behaviour and mood
  • they also have a role in male tissues (prostate and testes)

By improving oestrogen metabolism, especially when peri- and post-menopausal, the incidence of many female diseases and conditions, including osteoporosis, can be significantly reduced.


  1. Manage weight (reducing weight when overweight reduces the production of unbound oestrogen in fat cells, thus facilitating more desirable oestrogen metabolism and excretion).
  2. Reduce fat and increase fibre in the daily diet in order to influence oestrogen metabolism positively.
  3. Increase intake of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage to reduce excess oestrogen exposure.
  4. **Increase intake of phytoestrogen-rich foods such as SOY to reduce excess oestrogen exposure, thus reducing the risk of developing breast cancer, amongst other things.
  5. Choose complex carbohydrates (wholegrains, fruits and vegetables) over refined carbohydrates to improve stable blood glucose and thus insulin levels, reducing the negative effects of increased insulin on oestrogen balance.
  6. Use plenty of omega 3 oils to improve oestrogen metabolism.
  7. Ensure adequate but not excessive use of LEAN protein foods (lean meat and chicken, plenty of fish, low fat dairy, eggs, nuts).
  8. Vitamin E (increased levels reduce levels of unbound oestrogen; improves PMS; inhibits growth of breast cancer cells)
  9. Magnesium (improves oestrogen metabolism; promotes oestrogen detoxification;reduces PMS symptoms)
  10. Indole-3-Carbinol (I3C) – occurs naturally in cruciferous vegetables; breaks down oestrogen in a healthy manner; protective to oestrogen-sensitive tissues.
  11. B Vitamins (decreased levels of B Vitamins can disrupt oestrogen detoxification and thus increase levels of circulating estrogens; cancer protective).
  12. Other beneficial Phytonutrients
  • Curcumin (turmeric) and soya isoflavones can reduce levels of unbound oestrogen in the body.
  • Antioxidant nutrients (vitamins E and C, and selenium) can reduce the production of harmful oestrogen metabolites.
  • D-limonene (found in the oils of citrus fruit): promotes the detoxification of oestrogen

** Soy isoflavones are one of the most important sources of phytoestrogens, and play a role as follows:

  1. When oestrogen levels are high, isoflavones block the more potent forms of oestrogen produced by the body. In this way they may help to prevent hormone-driven diseases, such as breast and prostate cancer. 
  1. When oestrogen levels are low, as they are after menopause, isoflavones substitute for the body’s own oestrogen. Adequate oestrogen can possibly reduce hot flushes; and may also assist in increasing bone mineral density, thus preventing osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. 
  1. These isoflavones / plant sterols have proven cholesterol-lowering effects. In this way they assist in the prevention of hyperlipidaemias, and cardiovascular disease. 
  1. Soya isoflavones have also been shown to be beneficial in lowering blood pressure in those with hypertension, but not in normotensive subjects (meta-analysis 2012) 

Most experts say that one should obtain the soy isoflavones required from food (not capsules).

1-2 servings a day will most likely provide adequate soya isoflavones:

1 serving = 1 cup soya milk OR ½ cup (50g) soya porridge.

In conclusion:

Include a daily source of soya, as part of a balanced diet, to assist in oestrogen metabolism, and therefore significantly reduce your risk of developing osteoporosis.

For those who are already suffering from osteoporosis, by including soya sources will ensure improved bone tissue development, and assist in the recovery.

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