Iowa State studies assess factors affecting osteoporosis, children's obesity

AMES, Iowa -- Researchers from Iowa State University's College of Human Sciences have completed recent studies analyzing factors that may affect the onset of two serious health conditions -- osteoporosis and children's obesity. Their findings, profiled below, may be of interest for future stories.

GETTING TO THE BONE ON SOY ISOFLAVONES -- Previous research found that consuming modest amounts of soy foods, rich in isoflavones, helped to protect postmenopausal women from bone loss -- suggesting that consumption of soy isoflavone tablets may help to prevent osteoporosis. But a National Institutes of Health multi-center clinical trial led by D. Lee Alekel, professor of nutrition and interim associate director of the Nutrition and Wellness Research Center (NWRC) at Iowa State, reported that postmenopausal women who ingested soy isoflavone tablets for three years experienced no beneficial effect on bone density. The study of 224 postmenopausal women (208 in the compliant analysis) compared the effects of either 80-mg daily soy isoflavone tablets, 120-mg tablets, or a matching placebo. Researchers found no significant effect of treatment on lumbar spine, total hip, or whole-body bone mineral density. While the 120-mg dose soy tablets did show a small protective effect on femoral neck bone mineral density, Alekel said that finding did not provide evidence to suggest that the isoflavone tablets had a biologically important impact. Fellow NWRC researchers Laura Hanson, Jeanne Stewart and Kathy Hanson joined Kenneth Koehler and C. Ted Peterson from ISU statistics on the eight-member team, which presented their findings last month at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 31st Annual Meeting in Denver. CONTACT: Alekel, (515) 294-9045, (515) 294-3552,

STRESSING CHILDREN'S OBESITY -- A previous Iowa State study of 1,011 adolescents (aged 10 to 15) and their mothers from low income families living in three cities (Boston, Chicago and San Antonio) found that increased levels of stress in adolescents are associated with a greater likelihood of them being overweight or obese. That same research team has now published a study in the September issue of Social Science Research identifying specific categories of family stressors that may affect a child's weight. Studying children who lived across the country, a lack of cognitive stimulation and emotional support was associated with a younger child (ages 5 to 11) being more likely to be overweight or obese. Mental and physical health problems and financial strain were positively associated with a child's weight among older children (ages 12 to 17). The Iowa State researchers on the team included Steve Garasky, a professor of human development and family studies (HDFS); Brenda Lohman, an associate professor of HDFS; and Susan Stewart, an associate professor of sociology. The researchers concluded that reducing family-level stressors at home may also help prevent children's obesity. CONTACTS: Garasky, (515) 294-9826,; Stewart, (515) 294-5912,; Lohman, (515) 294-6230, (773) 505-2872 (c),