Phytoestrogen-rich soy is known to ameliorate menopause-associated obesity and metabolic dysfunction for reasons that are unclear. The gut microbiota have been linked with the development of obesity and metabolic dysfunction. We aimed to determine the impact of soy on cardiometabolic health, adipose tissue inflammation, and the cecal microbiota in ovariectomized (OVX) rats bred for low-running capacity (LCR), a model that has been previously shown to mimic human menopause compared to sham-operated (SHM) intact control LCR rats. In this study, soy consumption, without affecting energy intake or physical activity, significantly improved insulin sensitivity and body composition of OVX rats bred for low-running capacity. Furthermore, soy significantly improved blood lipid profile, adipose tissue inflammation, and aortic stiffness of LCR rats. Compared to a soy-free control diet, soy significantly shifted the cecal microbial community of LCR rats, resulting in a lower Firmicutes:Bacteroidetes ratio. Correlations among metabolic parameters and cecal bacterial taxa identified in this study suggest that taxa Prevotella, Dorea, and Phascolarctobacterium may be taxa of interest. Our results suggest that dietary soy ameliorates adiposity, insulin sensitivity, adipose tissue inflammation, and arterial stiffness and exerts a beneficial shift in gut microbial communities in a rat model that mimics human menopause.
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