Probiotic consumption does not enhance the cholesterol-lowering effect of soy in postmenopausal women

Kristin A. Greany, Jennifer A. Nettleton, Kerry E. Wangen, William Thomas, Mindy S. Kurzer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


Numerous studies report that soy lowers cholesterol. Probiotic bacteria were also reported to lower total cholesterol (TC) and LDL cholesterol (LDL-C). We hypothesized that by altering intestinal microflora, probiotic consumption may also change phytoestrogen metabolism and enhance the effects of soy. To evaluate the independent and interactive effects of probiotic bacteria and soy on plasma TC, LDL-C, HDL cholesterol (HDL-C), and triglycerides (TG), 37 women with a baseline TC of 5.24 mmol/L were given the following 4 treatments for 6 wk each in a randomized crossover design: soy protein isolate (26 ± 5 g soy protein containing 44 ± 8 mg isoflavones/d); soy protein isolate + probiotic capsules (109 colony-forming units Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 and Bifidobacterium longum); milk protein isolate (26 ± 5 g milk protein/d); and milk protein isolate + probiotic. Soy consumption decreased plasma TC by 2.2% (P = 0.02) and LDL-C by 3.5% (P = 0.005), increased HDL-C by 4.2% (P = 0.006) and tended to decrease TG (P = 0.07) compared with milk protein intake. When divided according to initial TC concentration, soy effects were observed only in hypercholesterolemic women (TC > 5.17 mmol/L). In this subgroup, soy treatments decreased plasma TC by 3.3% (P = 0.01), LDL-C by 4.5% (P = 0.004), and TG by 10.6% (P = 0.02), and increased HDL-C by 4.2% (P = 0.02). When subjects were divided on the basis of plasma and urine concentrations of the isoflavone metabolite, equol, equol producers and nonproducers did not differ in baseline lipids or in the effects of soy. Probiotics did not lower cholesterol or enhance the effects of soy. These results confirm a beneficial effect of soy on plasma cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic postmenopausal women independent of equol production status, but do not support an independent or additive effect of these particular probiotic bacteria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3277-3283
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2004


  • Isoflavones
  • Lipids
  • Probiotic bacteria
  • Soy protein
  • Women


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