Substituting soy nuts for other forms of dietary protein lowers BP and LDL in hypertensive women and BP in normotensive postmenopausal women, says a new report.

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston recruited 60 postmenopausal women, 12 of whom had hypertension, to begin the Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) diet, a low-cholesterol eating plan for people with cardiovascular disease or at high risk for developing it.

After a four-week diet run-in, participants were randomized in a crossover design to one of two diet sequences for eight-week periods: the TLC diet without soy or the TLC diet with one-half cup of unsalted soy nuts a day.

Researchers found that compared with the TLC diet alone, the diet plus soy nuts lowered systolic and diastolic BP 9.9% and 6.8%, respectively, in hypertensive women and 5.2% and 2.9%, respectively, in normotensive women. These results are comparable with those seen in patients taking antihypertensive drugs, the researchers said.

Soy-nut supplementation also lowered LDL levels 11% in hypertensive women but had no effect in normotensive women.

The authors, who believe that the isoflavone content may account for the BP effect, say the findings could be far-reaching. “This study was performed in the free-living state; therefore, dietary soy may be a practical, safe, and inexpensive modality to reduce BP” (Arch Intern Med. 2007; 167:1060-1067).

Soy nuts, available in grocery and health-food stores, are made from whole soybeans that have been soaked in water and then baked. Their texture, size, and flavor is somewhat similar to that of peanuts.