Soy is found in edamame beans, specialist milks, tofu and sauces, as well as meat substitutes.
• Soy protein eases weight loss and enlarged spleens in ulcerative colitis mice
• Protective effects also occured when the protein was given to human bowel cells
• Human trials should be easy as the protein is easily available in meat
Adding soy to your diet could ease painful infl ammatory bowel disease (IBD) symptoms.
Researchers have found adding the staple bean to a sufferer's repertoire may improve symptoms of weight loss and an enlarged spleen, which both commonly occur in the gut disorders.
The most common forms of IBD are Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and Crohn's Disease (CD).
UC affects the colon and rectum, and has a prevalence of around 146,000 people in the UK.
CD is often considered the more severe form of the disease as it can cause infl ammation at any point in the gut. It affects at least 115,000 people in the UK.
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University induced mice with a condition similar to UC.
They then added a soy-protein concentrate into their diet and removed other protein sources.
Study author Amy Wopperer, said: 'Soy-protein concentrate mitigates markers of colonic inflammation and loss of gut barrierfunction in the mice with induced IBD.'
Loss of gut function in a so-called 'leaky gut' prevents the proper absorption of nutrients and can cause particles to escape into the bloodstream, provoking symptoms.
The mice were given a soy-protein concentrate of 12 percent, which was based on the amount humans generally consume.
Study author Zachary Bitzer,said: 'We didn't want to get carried away with using doses that were really high and would crowd out all the other protein that was there.
'Instead, we wanted to find a scenario that was going to fit into a more human-relevant situation.'
Protective effects were also seen when the concentrate was given to cultured human bowel cells.
The researchers believe the study's findings, published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry,will translate well to humans in future trials as soy protein is widely available as a meat substitute.
Dr Joshua Lambert, associate professor of food science, said:'Since it is already out there commercially, that makes it more straightforward.'
This comes after researchers from Ghent University found that swapping dairy for soy could substantially reduce your cancer risk.
Among those eating a soy-rich diet, the risk of developing colon cancer was reduced by 44 percent in women and 40 percent in men.
Women who swapped dairy for soy had a 42 percent lesser risk of getting stomach cancer, while men's risk was reduced by 29 percent.
Cutting out dairy also lessened men's prostate cancer risk by 30 percent.