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June 30, 2011

MastronardeJohnCOLUMBUS, Ohio – Soy may be beneficial for people with poorly controlled asthma, according to researchers at The Ohio State University Medical Center who are studying a potential link between soy intake and lung performance.  

This multi-center phase III trial is based on previous questionnaire data collected by the American Lung Association’s Asthma Clinical Research Centers, which indicated a possible link between soy and improved lung function.

“Americans, in general, do not eat a lot of soy, but the groups of people who did seemed to have better lung function,” said Dr. John Mastronarde, director of the asthma center at Ohio State’s Medical Center. “That made us think maybe this is something that could improve asthma as well.”

Specifically, researchers are looking at certain nutrients in soy called isoflavones. Two of these isoflavones, genistein and daidzein, are linked to lower risk of heart disease, osteoporosis and cancer.  Genistein has anti-inflammatory properties and, in lab tests, it has been shown to inhibit certain cellular pathways that trigger asthma.

“If this study shows that soy isoflavones can help control asthma symptoms, it would be the first natural supplement proven to be effective against this chronic, growing disease,” Mastronarde said.

Each day for six months, study participants will take either soy supplements containing 100 milligrams of isoflavones or a placebo.  Throughout the study, participants will keep diaries to document their asthma symptoms and undergo lung function tests and other measurements to determine how well their asthma is being controlled.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 25 million Americans have asthma and the numbers have been increasing steadily over the last 30 years. While there are good medications to control asthma, experts say more inexpensive alternatives are needed.

“The problem is when the first line medications fail, our options for treatment are limited and expensive.  Having an alternative medicine, like soy, that is affordable and effective with fewer side effects would be a very attractive option,” said Mastronarde.    

A total of 380 people with asthma ages 12 and older are needed for the study.  Recruiting is taking place at 20 investigational centers across the country including Ohio State and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus. 

Funding for this study is provided by the National Institutes of Health and the American Lung Association. 

To learn more, contact: OSU Asthma Center, 1-800-678-6495, or


Contact: Marti Leitch, Medical Center Public Affairs and Media Relations, 614-293-3737, or