Type 2 diabetes mellitus has increased by about 33% over the past decade in the United States, generating higher health care costs, and is related to obesity. Some women undergoing menopause gain belly fat and may have a tendency to develop diabetes. The researchers have shown that a daily soy supplement containing phytoestrogens (weak estrogen-like chemicals) reduces the amount of belly fat in women after menopause compared to a milk shake placebo. Most fat reduction is superficial, but there is also some reduction of deeper belly fat located near abdominal organs. This deeper belly fat is most closely related to diabetes and heart disease risk.
In this new study, researchers will obtain both superficial and deep belly fat from women undergoing benign gynecologic procedures. Women with diabetes and cancer will be excluded. Fat cells will be exposed in the lab to various concentrations of the phytoestrogens genistein and daidzein to determine if these phytoestrogens found in soy cause genes to be expressed that indicate that the fat cells are more sensitive to sugar and insulin, while increasing removal and breakdown of fat. A current trial is looking at ways that a daily soy supplement reduces belly fat compared to a milk shake placebo. Eleven women in menopause have been recruited and assigned to drink a daily soy shake or a milk shake placebo. Biopsies of fat located under the skin in healthy menopausal volunteers have been conducted before the study and after drinking the shakes for two months. Taken together, the ongoing in vivo study of superficial fat and the new in vitro study of superficial and deep fat will provide valuable preliminary data in order to apply for a federal grant to examine the effect of soy supplements on abdominal fat and risk for developing diabetes.