Soy's Menopausal Value Questioned

Lynne Morihisa has just signed up to take soy supplements as part of a study in California where researchers want to know if they can slow the aging effects associated with menopause.

"It's more of a preventive thing," she says. "I want to live to be in my 80s and be healthy."

"We could expect positive effects on vascular disease or hardening of the arteries, heart disease, heart attacks, potentially stroke," says Dr. Howard Hodis of the USC Keck School of Medicine.

Marketed as a friend to women in menopause, soy products are a fixture at health food stores.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Jim Acosta reports, a new study finds one brand of soy powder doesn't do anything to treat the worst symptoms of menopause. In women over the age of 60, cholesterol levels did not go down. Bone density did not go up and memory was not improved.

That's no surprise to women's health experts like Dr. Holly Thacker of the Cleveland Clinic.

"As far as using soy to treat menopausal symptoms, it doesn't work," says Thacker.

Soy emerged as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy after a groundbreaking study discovered serious health risks with HRT. The problem, says Thacker, is that many of the substitutes to HRT are unregulated.

"This is a major problem because many women are taking all sorts of concoctions of supplements and shakes, and who knows what's in some of these capsules," says Thacker. And they're taking it because they think somehow it's safer or better and that's not the case."

One lingering question this latest study did not answer is whether soy products can help younger menopausal women. Doctors are awaiting further studies to settle that debate.

With few proven safe treatments for women in menopause, Morihisa is still hoping to prove soy's skeptics wrong.