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Ageing women may choose to drink soya milk to reduce menopausal symptoms. As fermentation enriches soya milk with isoflavone aglycones, its beneficial qualities may improve. To reduce osteoporotic risk, however, soya milk must be Ca enriched, and it is not known how fermentation affects Ca bioavailability. A randomised crossover pilot study was undertaken to compare the Ca absorption of fortified soya milk with that of fermented and fortified soya milk in twelve Australian osteopenic post-menopausal women. The fortified soya milk was inoculated with Lactobacillus acidophilus American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) 4962 and fermented for 24 h at 37°C. Ca absorption from soya milk samples was measured using a single isotope radiocalcium method. Participants had a mean age of 54·8 (sd 12·3) years, with mean BMI of 26·5 (sd 5·5) kg/m2 and subnormal to normal serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D (mean 62·5 (sd 19·1) nmol/l). Participants consumed 185 kBq of 45Ca in 44 mg of Ca carrier. The mean fractional Ca absorption (α) from soya milk and fermented soya milk was 0·64 (sd 0·23) and 0·71 (sd 0·29), respectively, a difference not of statistical significance (P = 0·122). Although fermentation of soya milk may provide other health benefits, fermentation had little effect on acute Ca absorption.
We investigated the effects of consuming an isoflavone aglycone-enriched soya milk containing viable bifidobacteria on urinary isoflavone excretion and percentage recovery. Sixteen postmenopausal women were randomly divided into two groups to consume either fermented or non-fermented soya milk. Each group participated in a double-blind, crossover study with three 14 d supplementation periods, separated by a 14 d washout. Subjects ingested three daily dosages of isoflavone via the soya milk and collected four 24 h pooled urine specimens per supplementation period. Soya milks were prepared with soya protein isolate and soya germ, followed by fermentation with bifidobacteria. Isoflavone levels were quantified using HPLC. Non-fermented soya milks at 20, 40 and 80 mg isoflavone/200 ml contained 10 %, 9 % and 7 % aglycone, respectively, with their fermented counterparts containing 69 %, 57 % and 36 % aglycone (P<0·001). A trend to a greater percentage urinary recovery of daidzein and glycitein was observed among women consuming fermented soya milk at a dosage of 40 mg isoflavone (P=0·13). A distinct linear dose response for the fermented soya milk group (R2=0·9993) compared with the non-fermented group (R2=0·8865) suggested less interindividual variation in isoflavone absorption. However, total urinary isoflavone excretion was similar for both groups (P>0·05), with urinary isoflavone recovery at approximately 31 %. Increasing the isoflavone dosage correlated positively with its urinary excretion, but urinary percentage recovery of isoflavone was inversely related to dosage level. Hence, a modest dosage ranging from 20 to 30 mg/d may provide the most bioavailable source of isoflavone, regardless of whether it is via an aglycone-rich fermented soya milk or a glucoside-rich soya milk.
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