Which group do you belong to - the tofu lovers or the tofu haters? For years now, there has been a tussle over this same issue. Some say tofu tastes amazing; others say 'why to even think of tofu when we have our tasty paneer?' Whatever it is, both the clans must start considering tofu as a part of their diet as it may help in increasing your lifespan. A latest Japanese study says that people who have a relatively higher intake of fermented soy products are at a reduced risk of dying from various causes. It was published in the British Medical Journal. However, the research also stressed that the findings should be interpreted with caution as they may have been affected by unmeasured (confounding) factors.
In Asian countries, especially Japan, several types of soy products are widely consumed such as natto (soybeans fermented with Bacillus subtilis), miso (soybeans fermented with Aspergillus oryzae), and tofu (soybean curd). A team of researchers in Japan investigated the association between several types of soy products and death from any cause ('all-cause mortality') and from cancer, total cardiovascular disease (heart disease and cerebrovascular disease), respiratory disease, and injury. It is, however, unclear whether different soy products, especially fermented soy products, are associated with specific health effects.
Their findings were based on 42,750 men and 50,165 women aged 45-74 years, who filled in detailed questionnaires about their dietary habits, lifestyle, and health status. Mortality rates were identified from residential registries and death certificates over a follow-up period of nearly 15 years. The researchers found that a higher intake of fermented soy (natto and miso) was associated with a significantly lower (10 percent) risk of all-cause mortality, but total soy product intake was not associated with all-cause mortality. Men and women who ate natto also had a lower risk of cardiovascular mortality than those who did not eat natto, but there was no association between soy intake and cancer-related mortality. These results persisted even after further adjusting for the intake of vegetables, which was higher among those consuming larger portions of natto. The authors pointed out that fermented soy products are richer in fibre, potassium and bioactive components than their non-fermented counterparts, which may help to explain their associations.
However, this was an observational study, so it could not establish cause, and the researchers could not rule out the possibility that some of the observed risks may be due to other unmeasured factors.
As per an ANI report, they said, "In this large prospective study conducted in Japan with a high rate of soy consumption, no significant association was found between intake of total soy products and all-cause mortality. In contrast, a higher intake of fermented soy products (natto and miso) was associated with a lower risk of mortality."
The researchers also mentioned that increasing evidence has suggested that fermented soy products are associated with health benefits. It depends on a country's food culture, whether people there eat those products or not. However, some countries have included soy and fermented soy products in their dietary guidelines.
(Also Read: 11 Delicious Tofu Recipes | Easy Tofu Recipes)
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