In a previous trial, treatment with soy isoflavones was associated with improved nonverbal memory, construction abilities, verbal fluency, and speeded dexterity compared to treatment with placebo in cognitively healthy older adults.
The current trial aimed to examine the potential cognitive benefits of soy isoflavones in patients with Alzheimer's disease.
Sixty-five men and women over the age of 60 were treated with 100 mg/day soy isoflavones, or matching placebo capsules for six months. APOE genotype was determined for all participants. Cognitive outcomes and plasma isoflavone levels were measured at baseline, and at two additional time points: three and six months after baseline.
Of the sixty-five participants enrolled, thirty-four (52.3%) were women, and 31 (47.7%) were APOEɛ4 positive. Average age was 76.3 (SD = 7.2) years. Fifty-nine (90.8%) subjects completed all study visits. Plasma isoflavone levels increased in subjects treated with soy isoflavones compared to baseline and to placebo, although intersubject variability in plasma levels was large. No significant differences in treatment effects for cognition emerged between treatment groups or genders. Exploratory analyses of associations between changes in cognition and plasma isoflavone levels revealed an association between equol levels, and speeded dexterity and verbal fluency.
Six months of 100 mg/day treatment with soy isoflavones did not benefit cognition in older men and women with Alzheimer's disease. However, our results suggest the need to examine the role of isoflavone metabolism, i.e., the ability to effectively metabolize soy isoflavones by converting daidzen to equol when attempting to fully clarify the cognitive effects of isoflavones.