Effects of soy protein and soybean isoflavones on thyroid function in healthy adults and hypothyroid patients: a review of the relevant literature.
Thyroid. 2006 Mar;16(3):249-58. PMID: 16571087
Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health, Loma Linda University, California, USA. firstname.lastname@example.org
Soy foods are a traditional staple of Asian diets but because of their purported health benefits they have become popular in recent years among non-Asians, especially postmenopausal women. There are many bioactive soybean components that may contribute to the hypothesized health benefits of soy but most attention has focused on the isoflavones, which have both hormonal and nonhormonal properties. However, despite the possible benefits concerns have been expressed that soy may be contraindicated for some subsets of the population. One concern is that soy may adversely affect thyroid function and interfere with the absorption of synthetic thyroid hormone. Thus, the purpose of this review is to evaluate the relevant literature and provide the clinician guidance for advising their patients about the effects of soy on thyroid function. In total, 14 trials (thyroid function was not the primary health outcome in any trial) were identified in which the effects of soy foods or isoflavones on at least one measure of thyroid function was assessed in presumably healthy subjects; eight involved women only, four involved men, and two both men and women. With only one exception, either no effects or only very modest changes were noted in these trials. Thus, collectively the findings provide little evidence that in euthyroid, iodine-replete individuals, soy foods, or isoflavones adversely affect thyroid function. In contrast, some evidence suggests that soy foods, by inhibiting absorption, may increase the dose of thyroid hormone required by hypothyroid patients. However, hypothyroid adults need not avoid soy foods. In addition, there remains a theoretical concern based on in vitro and animal data that in individuals with compromised thyroid function and/or whose iodine intake is marginal soy foods may increase risk of developing clinical hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is important for soy food consumers to make sure their intake of iodine is adequate.