Life Extension Magazine®

Soy reduces bone fracture risk in women, and more.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

Soy Reduces Bone Fracture Risk in Women

Regular soy consumption reduces bone fracture risk in postmenopausal women, according to recent findings published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.*

Starting in midlife, adults rapidly lose bone. This can lead to a condition of diminished bone mass called osteoporosis, which is associated with an increased risk of bone fracture. Women experience a greater risk of osteoporosis-related bone fractures, particularly after menopause.

Researchers at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in Shanghai, China, examined the relationship between soy food consumption and fracture incidence in nearly 25,000 postmenopausal women as part of the Shanghai Women’s Health Study. Women who consumed the most soy had an approximately 35% decreased risk of fractures compared to women who consumed the least soy. The benefit was greatest for women within 10 years of menopause, as high soy food consumption in that group was related to an approximately 50% reduction in bone fracture risk. Consumption of five grams or more of soy daily was associated with protection against fracture. Those who consumed more than 13 grams of soy daily—providing more than 60 milligrams of soy isoflavones—saw the most benefit for bone health.

“Soy, a rich source of plant estrogens, has been shown to modulate bone turnover and increase bone mineral density in postmenopausal women,” researcher Xiao-Ou Shu, MD, PhD, told Life Extension. Although this study examined only dietary soy consumption, Dr. Shu noted that “it is likely that soy supplementation and soy foods have a similar beneficial effect in preventing bone fracture.”

—Marc Ellman, MD


* Zhang X, Shu XO, Li H, et al. Prospective cohort study of soy food consumption and risk of bone fracture among postmenopausal women. Arch Intern Med. 2005 Sep 12;165(16):1890-5.

MSM Improves Pain, Function in Arthritis Patients

Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM) improves pain and physical function in adults with knee osteoarthritis pain, according to scientists at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Arthritis Health Center in Arizona.1-2
MSM supplementation not only was well tolerated with no adverse effects, but also was associated with improvements in markers of cardiovascular risk and oxidative stress.

This double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial tracked 50 adults over the age of 40 who had been diagnosed with knee osteoarthritis. The participants were randomly assigned to take either three grams of MSM twice daily or a placebo for 12 weeks. At the study’s end, they were evaluated for osteoarthritis pain, stiffness, physical function, and overall symptoms. Additionally, the investigators evaluated several laboratory markers in the patients.

The individuals who used MSM experienced significantly decreased arthritis pain and impaired physical function. Supplementing with MSM also markedly improved their ability to perform daily activities. Moreover, the MSM group saw reductions in both serum homocysteine, a cardiovascular disease risk factor, and urine malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.

MSM thus appears to be a safe, effective remedy for osteoarthritis of the knee, and may also support cardiovascular health. These findings offer hope for the one in three Americans who experience daily joint pain due to arthritis, and are especially timely as several prescription arthritis drugs have recently been taken off the market because they may raise cardiovascular risk.

Although its precise mechanism of action is unknown, MSM is rich in sulfur, a crucial component of the body’s connective tissues. Scientists believe MSM may promote joint and connective tissue health by providing beneficial sulfur.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


1. Available at: portal/site/google/index.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20050926005389&newsLang=en. Accessed October 3, 2005.
2. Available at: Accessed October 3, 2005.

Antioxidants Cut Stomach Cancer Risk

High dietary intake of antioxidants decreases the risk of gastric (stomach) cancer, even in people with an active Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) infection, according to a recent report from South Korea.1

The H. pylori bacteria, one of the most common pathogens afflicting humans, is often associated with gastric cancer.2 Additionally, H. pylori can cause chronic active gastritis and peptic ulcer.2 Other risk factors for gastric cancer include high dietary salt intake, cigarette smoking, and family history of the disease.

The study enrolled 136 subjects with histologic evidence of gastric cancer and 136 healthy controls. The subjects completed a retrospective food-frequency questionnaire that covered a 12-month period. Using a multivariate model, the study authors assessed the effects of dietary factors and H. pylori infection on gastric cancer risk.

High dietary intake of vitamins A, C, and E, as well as beta-carotene, was associated with a decreased risk of gastric cancer. In individuals with H. pylori infection, high dietary intake of vitamins C and E was associated with protection against gastric cancer. Specifically, subjects in the highest tertiles of vitamin C and E intake had 90% and 84% reduced risks of gastric cancer, respectively. By contrast, participants in the lowest tertile of combined vitamin C and E intake had a greater than fourfold increased risk of gastric cancer.1

The authors concluded that high antioxidant intake may protect against gastric cancer. The antimicrobial eradication of H. pylori, combined with supplemental use of vitamins C and E, may thus provide a two-pronged strategy for preventing gastric cancer.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


1. Kim HJ, Kim MK, Chang WK, Choi HS, Choi BY, Lee SS. Effect of nutrient intake and Helicobacter pylori infection on gastric cancer in Korea: a case-control study. Nutr Cancer. 2005;52(2):138-46.
2. Penta R, De Falco M, Iaquinto G, De Luca A. Helicobacter pylori and gastric epithelial cells: from gastritis to cancer. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Sep;24(3):337-45.

Omega-3s May Avert Depression in Diabetics

Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may help to prevent and treat depression in individuals with type II diabetes, according to a recent review conducted by researchers at Vrije Universiteit Medical Centre in Amsterdam, Holland.* While depression often accompanies type II diabetes, antidepressant drugs effectively resolve depression in only 50-60% of patients.

The Danish investigators analyzed data from studies examining the relationship of omega-3 fatty acids and depression, as well as studies on the use of omega-3 supplements in type II diabetes. A review of 17 published studies on depression collectively demonstrated that those with lower dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids experienced higher rates of depression. Furthermore, four studies showed that an additive therapeutic effect occurred when depressed patients were treated with both conventional antidepressants and omega-3 fatty acids.

The investigators noted that certain evidence suggests that low dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with an increased risk of developing type II diabetes, though these findings were less conclusive. Omega-3 fatty acids may indirectly decrease the incidence of depression in diabetes patients by reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease and its complications, which may contribute to depression.

The authors concluded that omega-3 fatty acids, particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), may be safe and effective in reducing the incidence of depression and in treating depression in type II diabetics. Further studies are indicated to formally assess the effects of omega-3 fatty acids in preventing and managing depression in diabetics.

—Linda M. Smith, RN


* Pouwer F, Nijpels G, Beekman AT, et al. Fat food for a bad mood. Could we treat and prevent depression in Type 2 diabetes by means of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids? A review of the evidence. Diabet Med. 2005 Nov; 22(11):1465-75.

B Vitamins Lessen Risk of Stroke Recurrence

A combination of B vitamins may help lower the risk of a second stroke, as well as reduce the risk of cardiac events and death, according to a report in the journal Stroke.1 The supplement studied contained vitamins B6, B12, and folic acid, which are known to reduce blood levels of homocysteine, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Led by Dr. David J. Spence, scientists from the Stroke Prevention and Atherosclerosis Research Center (Ontario, Canada) conducted an efficacy analysis of data from the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) trial.1 A 2004 report from the VISP study group had reported that combined B vitamin therapy modestly lowered homocysteine levels, but did not reduce the risk of stroke recurrence, cardiac events, or death.2

When Dr. Spence and colleagues re-analyzed the results of the VISP trial, however, a different picture emerged. Noting that the trial included patients who were unlikely to respond to treatment due to existing vitamin B12 deficiency or renal failure, Spence’s group re-examined the results in a subgroup of 2,155 subjects deemed most likely to respond to treatment.1

In this group, combination B vitamin therapy demonstrated benefits in preventing recurrence of stroke and cardiac events.1 Specifically, a higher-dose B vitamin combination (25 mg of B6, 0.4 mg of B12, and 2.5 mg of folic acid) reduced the risk of recurrent stroke, death, and heart disease by 21% compared to a lower-dose B vitamin supplement (0.2 mg of B6, 0.006 mg of B12, and 0.02 mg of folic acid). When the researchers subdivided the patients by baseline levels of B12, thus identifying patients with difficulties absorbing the vitamin, the differences between the high- and low-dose groups further widened. Individuals with baseline B12 levels at or above average who received the higher-dose supplement had the best overall outcomes; those with below-average baseline B12 levels who received the lower-dose supplement had the worst outcomes.1

Dr. Spence noted that while folate fortification of foods is widespread, vitamin B12 status varies widely among patients, and patients’ response to vitamin therapy for lowering homocysteine may largely depend on B12 levels. Higher doses of vitamin B12 or other measures may be necessary to adequately lower homocysteine levels and thus to reduce the risk of stroke, cardiac events, and death.1 Life Extension has long contended that higher doses of B6 (100 to 1000 mg/day) are needed to achieve optimal homocysteine-lowering effects.

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


1. Spence JD, Bang H, Chambless LE, Stampfer MJ. Vitamin Intervention For Stroke Prevention trial: an efficacy analysis. Stroke. 2005 Nov;36(11):2404-9.
2. Toole JF, Malinow MR, Chambless LE, et al. Lowering homocysteine in patients with ischemic stroke to prevent recurrent stroke, myocardial infarction, and death: the Vitamin Intervention for Stroke Prevention (VISP) randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2004 Feb 4;291(5):565-75.

Ginseng Reduces Incidence, Severity of Colds

Daily use of ginseng extract helps prevent and reduce the severity of colds in adults, according to Canadian researchers.*

Upper respiratory infection is the most frequent health complaint leading individuals to seek medical care. While herbal medicine practitioners have long recommended ginseng as an energy tonic and immune booster, data from a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial add further support to ginseng’s role in supporting immune health.

Researchers enrolled 323 participants between the ages of 18 and 65 with a history of at least two colds in the previous year. Beginning at the onset of influenza season, the participants consumed two 200-mg capsules daily containing either North American ginseng extract (Panax quinquefolius) or placebo. The subjects kept logs of their symptoms, including runny nose, fever, headache, and sore throat, and ranked symptom severity on a scale from zero to three.

During the four-month study, the ginseng-supplemented group experienced 25% fewer colds and 56% fewer recurrent colds than the placebo group. Specifically, the ginseng group reported an average of 0.63 colds, compared with 0.93 colds in the placebo group. Only 10% of the ginseng group experienced two or more colds during the study, compared to 23% of the placebo group.

When individuals taking ginseng did succumb to colds, their symptoms were less severe and of shorter duration. Those using ginseng reported symptoms that were 31% less severe than those reported by the placebo group. The ginseng group also reported colds that were 34%, or 2.4 days, shorter in duration than those reported by the placebo group. This effect is comparable to that induced by common anti-viral drugs, which typically shorten the duration of illness by 1.5-2.5 days.

The use of American ginseng was not associated with any side effects. The researchers believe that bioactive components of ginseng may support immune function by stimulating the production of immunoglobulin, a type of protein that neutralizes foreign invaders in the body such as viruses and bacteria. The authors concluded that North American ginseng extract “appears to be an attractive natural prophylactic treatment for upper respiratory infections.”

—Elizabeth Wagner, ND


* Predy GN, Goel V, Lovlin R, Donner A, Stitt L, Basu TK. Efficacy of an extract of North American ginseng containing poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides for preventing upper respiratory tract infections: a randomized controlled trial. CMAJ. 2005 Oct 25:173(9):1043-8.

Ginkgo Biloba May Lower Ovarian Cancer Risk

According to research presented at a meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research in October 2005, consuming ginkgo biloba is associated with a 60% lower risk of developing ovarian cancer than that experienced by women who did not take the herb.*

Researchers led by Drs. Bin Ye and Daniel Cramer of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston examined data from 600 women with ovarian cancer and 640 healthy matched controls. Ten percent of the women with cancer reported using herbal supplements at least once a week for six months or longer prior to their diagnosis, which was comparable to the number of healthy women who reported herbal supplement use.

Of the most commonly used herbs, only ginkgo was associated with a lower risk of ovarian cancer. More than 4% of the healthy women reported using ginkgo, compared to 1.6% of those with ovarian cancer. Among women who had nonmucinous ovarian cancers, ginkgo use for six months or longer was associated with a 65-70% risk reduction.

In-vitro investigation found that specific compounds in ginkgo stop the growth of ovarian cancer cells. Dr. Ye explained, “Among the mixture of ginkgo chemicals, we found laboratory evidence that ginkgolide A and B-terpene compounds are the most active components contributing to this protective effect. While the detailed mechanism of ginkgo action on ovarian cancer cells is not yet well understood, from the existing literature it is most likely that ginkgo and ginkgolides are involved in anti-inflammation and anti-angiogenesis processes via many extra- and intra-cellular signal pathways. In the future, these findings could potentially offer a new strategy for ovarian cancer prevention and therapy, using the active forms of ginkgolides.”

—Dayna Dye


* Available at: news-by-product/news.asp?id=63649&k= ginkgo-biloba-may. Accessed November 9, 2005.