Eating soy protein may help women who have gestational diabetes during their pregnancy. Soy protein appears to help women control their blood sugar and cholesterol levels, according to a small study.
Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs to a woman during her pregnancy and goes away after her baby is delivered. It often starts during the middle of pregnancy. With gestational diabetes, blood sugar levels can usually be managed with a healthy diet and regular exercise, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, having high blood sugar levels during pregnancy may lead to high blood pressure and a larger than average baby, which could increase the need for a cesarean section.
The study included 68 pregnant women who had gestational diabetes. All were in or around their 26th week of pregnancy, and were followed until they delivered. The women were randomly assigned to one of two groups, with one group assigned to a diet where 35% of the protein came from soy and the rest from animal and plant sources. They received commercially available textured soy protein and directions on how to prepare it. The other group was assigned to a diet with 70% of protein from animal sources, such as meat and cheese and 30% from plant sources, such as legumes. Both groups of women followed the diets for 6 weeks.
At the end of the 6-week period, fasting blood sugar levels and insulin levels had decreased for women in the soy group, while they increased for women in the comparison group. Blood triglycerides rose in both groups, but rose significantly more in the comparison group than in the soy group.
Good sources of soy protein are soy milk, tofu, edamame, roasted soy nuts, and some textured vegetable proteins.
The study, which was conducted in Iran, was small. It was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.