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Soy consumption is a matter of taste

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[NOV. 16, 2004]  URBANA -- Although adding soy to a woman's diet has been linked to many health benefits, a recent study at the University of Illinois found that a negative attitude toward the taste of soy appears to be a stumbling block.

"Among the women in the survey who evaluated the sensory qualities of soy, more believed that soy products had an unpleasant taste and texture," said Chapman-Novakofski associate professor and nutritionist at the U of I. "This suggests that although there have been tremendous efforts to improve the taste and texture of soy foods, the ones produced today are still perceived to be unacceptable.

"An important key is the word 'perceived.' Nearly half of the women we surveyed hadn't even tried soy products," said Chapman-Novakofski. "They probably aren't likely to either if their perception is that they taste bad. And, of the half who had tried soy foods, when asked about specific health benefits of soy foods, more than two-thirds responded with 'don't know.' That tells me that there is a big need for additional education about the nutritional benefits of soy."

A daily intake of soy protein has been examined for various beneficial effects on women's health, including risk reduction for cardiovascular diseases, cancer, osteoporosis and menopausal symptoms; but less than 10 percent of the women in the study consumed it on a daily basis. "Although our sample was not large enough to generalize, it does show that many women's soy consumption is still low," said Chapman-Novakofski. "Our results on intake were much lower than other studies have reported."

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In the study, 205 women (103 black and 102 white) were asked questions about soy. The purpose of the study was to learn more about women's attitudes toward soy and how their attitudes affected their consumption of soy products; how nutrition education about soy can be improved; and whether or not race played a part in women's perspectives and consumption of soy.

Among women who said they consumed soy foods, the majority were consuming them rarely or several times a year. Less than 10 percent were consuming soy products daily or weekly, and most of the women said that they didn't intend to purchase soy foods anytime in the next month.

This project was partially supported by the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences Agricultural Experiment Station.

[University of Illinois news release]

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