Italian researchers have designed cereal bars containing isoflavones to potentially target growing osteoporosis cases in the ageing population.
The product development is the result of an EU-funded project, examining the effects of consuming isoflavones on bone density and metabolism in postmenopausal women.
The PHYTOS project will explore the potential role of natural phytoestrogens (such as isoflavones from soya, a staple food in Asia, where the prevalence of osteoporosis is significantly lower than in Western countries) in osteoporosis prevention among postmenopausal women living in Europe.
But given that natural isoflavone-rich foods are not widely consumed in Europe, the researchers first needed to produce new isoflavone-enriched foods (biscuits and cereal bars) and test the feasibility of these products in a small pilot study. Results found both new foods are suitable for the main trial.
In the main intervention study, 300 Caucasian, non-osteoporotic, early postmenopausal women from The Netherlands, France and Italy will be randomly assigned to consume isoflavone-enriched foods or placebo foods for 12 months. Bone mineral density at different sites of the skeleton and markers of bone turnover are the primary outcomes of the study.
A secondary objective is to compare in the different countries the effects that isoflavone consumption may have after the menopause.
The project is being coordinated by Prof Francesco Branca at the Istituto Nazionale di Ricerca per gli Alimenti e la Nutrizione (INRAN) in Rome, Italy.