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BACKGROUND - Whether soy food consumption may protect against coronary heart disease (CHD) remains controversial. No previous study has used biomarkers of soy intake in assessing the relationship between soy consumption and CHD. Biomarkers that reflect both intake and metabolism may be more informative than self-reports of dietary intake.
METHODS - We examined associations of urinary isoflavonoids, a biomarker of soy or soy isoflavone intake, with risk of CHD in a case-control study nested within two prospective cohort studies of Chinese adults in Shanghai. Cases were defined as subjects with no history of CHD at baseline who developed incident CHD during follow-up. Control subjects were randomly selected from those who remained free of CHD and matched to cases by sex, age, date and time of sample collection and antibiotic use. Baseline urinary isoflavonoids (daidzein, genistein, glycitein, equol, O-desmethylangolensin, dihydrodaidzein and dihydrogenistein) were compared between cases (n = 377) and control subjects (n = 753). Conditional logistic regression was used to evaluate the associations.
RESULTS - Total urinary isoflavonoids were not associated with CHD in either women or men. However, urinary equol excretion showed a significant inverse association with CHD in women. The adjusted odds ratios (95% confidence intervals) for CHD across increasing quartiles of equol levels in women were 1 (reference), 0.61 (0.32, 1.15), 0.51 (0.26, 0.98) and 0.46 (0.24, 0.89) (P = 0.02 for trend).
CONCLUSIONS - Our study suggests for the first time that equol, a bioactive metabolite of soy isoflavone daidzein, may be inversely associated with risk of CHD in women.