Memory loss is associated with aging and dementia. Dementia is a neurodegenerative disease that occurs over a period of time and can be detected in an individual by a progressive loss of cognitive function. Cognitive function is defined as one’s ability to think, reason and remember. Over time, researchers have uncovered that dementia has been detected less frequently in individuals from East Asia than from those residing in the West. Could the differences in diet be the explanation for this disparity? It is estimated that Asian populations eat 10 to 40 times more soy than Westerners. Is there something in soybeans that provides protection to the brain?
Soy contains phytoestrogens which are its primary bioactive elements. Phytoestrogens are very similar in structure to 17 beta-estradiol which is the most plentiful estrogen in human circulation. Therefore, phytoestrogens are able to interact with estrogen receptors in the same way that endogenous estrogen does. When internal levels of estrogen are high, phytoestrogens work as an antagonist with estrogen, as it competes for the estrogen receptors. On the other hand, when internal levels of estrogen are low, then phytoestrogens work as an agonist or can be used in the receptors in place of estrogen. Researchers believe that phytoestrogens are an important factor to consider when trying to understand dementia because of the concentration of estrogen receptors in the brain. Many of these receptors are located in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex. These areas of the brain are used for memory, learning and cognitive functions and are also known to be prone to deterioration as we age.
The most common form of deme...
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...s and humans, it was found that the levels of genistein was 58-150% higher in mice than in humans irrespective of the type of soy that was consumed. It has also been determined that humans have a greater ability to convert isoflavones to their active form than do animals. However, as mentioned above, this capacity can vary between populations. Other factors to consider is the dosage of soy. It was acknowledged that one of the studies provided a dosage too small to be effective. However, is there a level that can be too high and can pose a safety risk? This is a question that needs to be examined in future research. In the end, it is safe to say that it is difficult to present a definitive conclusion about the protective qualities of soy. The current research does not provide significant evidence that the isoflavones in soy improves cognition in the elderly.
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