US moves to revoke claim that soy protein protects the heart

A technician collects samples of soy beans to analyse them at the industrial complex of the Louis Dreyfus Company in General Lagos, Santa Fe province, Argentina on Sept 13, 2017.
A technician collects samples of soy beans to analyse them at the industrial complex of the Louis Dreyfus Company in General Lagos, Santa Fe province, Argentina on Sept 13, 2017.PHOTO: AFP

(REUTERS) - The US Food and Drug Administration on Monday (Oct 30) proposed a rule revoking the right of companies to claim soy protein protects the heart, while potentially allowing a more circumspect health claim.

The agency said studies published since the FDA authorised the claim in 1999 have shown inconsistent results. This is the first time the FDA has revoked a health claim.

"Our review of that evidence has led us to conclude that the relationship between soy protein and heart disease does not meet the rigorous standard for an FDA-authorised health claim," the agency said in a statement.

The FDA said that if its proposed rule is finalised, it would consider allowing the use of a qualified health  claim, which requires a lower scientific standard of evidence than an authorised  claim.  

The move comes nearly a decade after  the FDA announced its intent  to re-evaluate the scientific evidence for certain health claims, including  the one that soy  proteinmay lower the risk of heart disease.  

The American Heart Association has long advocated revoking the soy health claim. In a 2008 comment on the FDA’s intent to re-evaluate the evidence, the association said: “Direct cardiovascular health benefit of soy protein or isoflavone supplements is minimal at best.”

In the same comment, the association urged the FDA not to allow the use of a qualified health claim. 

“Consumer research conducted by AHA, the FDA and others has repeatedly shown that despite the presence of qualifying language, consumers do not understand qualified health claims and do not understand that they are based on limited and varying degrees of evidence,” the organisation said. 

American Heart Association officials were not immediately available to comment on the FDA’s most recent announcement.