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‘Soy may benefit stroke patients’

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What did the media report?

The media reported that a chemical found in soybeans and chickpeas could benefit people who have suffered a stroke.

What did the research show?

The stories were based on a randomised trial by researchers from Hong Kong, which was published in the online version of the European Heart Journal.

They randomised 102 people with previously history of stroke to receive either 80mg per day of a supplement containing isoflavone – a chemical found in soybeans, chickpeas, legumes and clovers – or placebo for 12 weeks.

They used ultrasound to measure the effects of isoflavone on the way the brachial artery dilated in response to an increase in blood flow – called flow-mediated dilation – using a tourniquet. Impaired FMD is an indicator of the poor functioning of the cells that line the inner surfaces of blood vessels, called vascular endothelium. Endothelial dysfunction is implicated in cardiovascular disease.

The researchers found 80% of the patients had an impaired FMD of less than 3.7% at the start of the study, but after 12 weeks of isoflavone or placebo, there was an improvement of 1% in the isoflavone-treated patients compared with the controls.

What did the researchers say?

Lead author Hung-Fat Tse, associate professor in medicine at the University of Hong Kong, said: ‘These findings suggest that isoflavone reverses endothelial dysfunction. The treatment effect of isoflavone in our study was comparable with lifestyle changes with endurance training or pharmacological interventions with statin therapy.’

‘Diets with higher isoflavone contents might be beneficial in reducing cardiovascular risk in ischaemic stroke patients,’ he added.

What does this mean for nursing practice?

Dr Peter Coleman, deputy director of research and development, at the Stroke Association said: ‘This is an important and interesting study showing that dietary supplementation with isoflavones in people who have had a stroke may reduce their risk of further stroke or cardiovascular disease.

‘While this is a positive finding, it was a small study and further research is needed to discover how plant isoflavones could reduce stroke risk,’ he added.

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