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The FDA’s debate on whether producers should be able to label items with soy protein as “heart healthy” has raised questions on its effectiveness.

Zee Krstic
November 01, 2017

The Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it wants to stop labeling food items containing soy protein as "heart healthy". The update means manufacturers will have to change their labeling to what’s known as a "qualified claim". 

Reuters reports that a "qualified claim" is a term the FDA uses to recognize health benefits based on a select range of scientific research—in this case linking soy protein intake with a reduced risk of heart disease.

In a press release released by the FDA, the agency says studies attributing soy protein as a combatant against increased risk of heart disease are inconclusive. “Our review of that evidence has led us to conclude that the relationship between soy protein and heart disease doesn't meet the rigorous standard for an FDA-authorized health claim,” the statement reads.

Cooking Light’s Assistant Nutrition Editor Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, says that soy protein has proliferated the packaged foods market because soy beans are relatively inexpensive, and more processed foods are incorporating some form of soy protein into their ingredients list.

But Vespa is adamant that soy protein has been shown to decrease LDL cholesterol (often referred to as the “bad” cholesterol, as it causes plaque to build up in arteries) and can be a great source of healthy protein in unprocessed forms. She says that soy protein is particularly powerful in the fight against heart disease when it replaces meat-based proteins and animal fats.

Photo: Jennifer Causey

Cooking Light has previously recommended two to four servings of soy protein a day for its amazing health benefits– Vespa says soy protein has all nine essential amino acids and offers a substantial amount of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids.

The key to harnessing soy protein’s nutritional prowess is staying away from over-processed versions you might find in the supermarket aisle – Vespa recommends wholesome staples like tofu, tempeh, edamame, and soy beans as nutrition-rich options to reap soy protein's heart-healthy benefits.

Photo: D.Jiang / Getty

Regardless of whether or not the FDA decides to limit manufacturers' use of the “heart healthy” label, the rich health benefits found in unprocessed soy-based foods are something that Vespa believes you should routinely seek out, especially if you’re looking to replace meat as your primary protein source.

The FDA will seek input from the scientific community for more than two months before deciding whether or not the food industry will have to stop labeling soy protein products as "heart healthy". If they decide to rescind their approval of heart-healthy claims for soy protein, it would be the first time they’ve ever done so, and could open discussion to all 12 packaged labeling claims that the FDA has approved since 1990. 

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