Eating soy protein could significantly lower fat accumulation in the livers of obese patients by partially restoring the function of a key signalling pathway in the organ, according to a research at a US university. Hong Chen, assistant professor of food science at the University of Illinois, said: “Almost a third of American adults have fatty liver disease, many of them without symptoms. Obesity is a key risk factor for this condition, which can lead to liver failure.”
Consuming soy protein, drawn from soybean as also from such sources as tofu and yogurt, appears to alleviate some of the stress on fatty livers, Chen said. For her study, Chen compared fat accumulation in the livers of lean and obese rats, which were assigned to either a diet containing casein, a milk-based protein, or a diet containing soy protein, for 17 weeks after weaning.
Fat is metabolised in the liver, and in those who are obese the transfer of fat to adipose tissue can slow down to the point at which the liver becomes a dumping ground for excess fat, she said, according to an Illinois statement. ”When the fat accumulates in an organ that’s not supposed to store fat – like the liver, that organ’s vital function can be dangerously compromised,” Chen noted. While diet had no effect on the liver profiles of lean animals, the obese rats that were fed soy showed a 20 percent reduction in triglycerides and overall fat accumulation in the liver, leading Chen to believe that soy protein could be used to alleviate the symptoms of fatty liver disease.
A triglyceride is an ester derived from glycerol and three fatty acids. There are many triglycerides: depending on the oil source, some are highly unsaturated, some less so. These findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, held with the Experimental Biology 2012 meeting in San Diego on Sunday.