Researchers say compound in soy may help patients breathe easier
(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – It all started innocently enough. While enrolling patients recently, doctors had those with asthma fill out a questionnaire listing the types of foods they typically eat. What doctors picked up on from their answers is that those who ate more soy products seemed to have better control over their asthma symptoms.
Not wanting to read too much into a such a subtle sign, researchers took it a step further and analyzed studies on asthma patients in Japan, where soy is an abundant part of the daily diet. Sure enough, their suspicions seemed to be confirmed.
“The findings show that folks who had an increased amount of soy intake had better lung function” said Dr. John Mastronarde, Director of the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Program at Ohio State University Medical Center.
“Americans, in general, do not take a whole lot of soy” said Mastronarde, but given that lung function is better in parts of the world where they do, “made us think, well, maybe, this is something that could improve their asthma as well.”
To find out, Mastronarde is teaming up with at least twenty other medical centers around the country in an extensive new study. For six months volunteer asthma patients will take two supplements of soy a day, or will take a placebo. At different stages of the study doctors will measure their lung function and track their symptoms.
“This will be a very large study of at least 380 participants, both teens and adults. We’re going to enroll patients who are 12 years and above” said Mastronarde.
One of them is Katrina Muska Duff, who has already enrolled in the study. Sitting in her garden on a muggy summer day, Katrina plants flowers with her rescue inhaler sitting close by her side. “Hot summer days like today, with the humidity, I feel my asthma kick in” she said, especially “when there are the air quality alerts.”
Katrina is one of the 25 million Americans who have asthma*, who spends and average of 3-thousand dollars a year to control it. ** So, the idea of simply taking a soy supplement appeals to her. “I already take vitamins on a daily basis, so maybe adding another supplement to my daily vitamin intake wouldn’t be a big deal” she said. “If I could go off my medicine and just take a soy supplement, that would be great. Because as we all know, the cost of prescriptions are going up, (and) there are a lot of things that are uncertain right now with healthcare.”
Researchers say a certain isoflavone found in soy, known as genistein, may be the key. Doctors say it has certain anti-inflammatory properties, and may be able to keep asthma from flaring up.
Soy will most likely never completely take the place of medicines already on the market, but Mastronarde says patients are in need of supplemental options that don’t exist today.
“We have some very good drugs for asthma” he said, “and in a majority of patients they work pretty well. The problem is, when the first line medicines don’t really work, then we’re much more limited when you have to add a second level of medications.”
If you have asthma and would like to learn more about the study to see if you may qualify, contact OSU Asthma Center, 1-800-678-6495, or Lung.Research@osumc.edu.
*Asthma - FastStats, Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention. Retrieved June 2011 from: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/asthma.htm
**U.S. Asthma Rates Continue to Rise, CDC. Retrieved June 2011 from: http://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2011/p0503_vitalsigns.html