Soya milk could keep a pot belly at bay
Research shows that one soya-based drink a day can slash the amount of fat that accumulates across the stomach.
Abdominal fat is particularly bad for health, raising the risk of heart attacks and diabetes more than fat found on other parts of the body.
It is thought that soya, a vegetable protein, somehow interferes with the processing of excess sugar into fat.
It is believed that soya, a vegetable protein, interferes with the processing of excess sugar into fat - helping to flatten out a pot belly.
Previous studies have shown that soya and tofu, a meat substitute made from soya bean curd, cut the risk of ovarian cancer and heart disease.
In the latest study, the researchers looked at the effect of soya supplements on the health of 15 women who had gone through the menopause.
Nine were asked to drink a 120-calorie soya shake a day, while six were given a dummy shake to drink.
After three months of daily shakes, there was little difference in weight between the two groups.
However scans showed a big difference in the amount of fat the women were carrying around the waist.
While those on the soya shakes had lost abdominal fat during the course of the study, the other women had put it on, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine's annual conference heard.
Writing in the journal Fertility and Sterility, they said: 'Our trial suggests a new dietary option for the prevention of abdominal adipose tissue gain that occurs after menopause.'
Dr David Christie, of the University of Alabama at Birmingham (CORR), who is collaborating with the researchers on other work on soya, said the shakes contained more soya than people would normally eat in their diet and supplements would be needed to get the same effect at home.
He added: 'This was a very small trial with very small numbers.
'If it were to hold up in larger numbers it could have much broader implications in terms of recommending soya to menopausal women.
'It may well have a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.'
Other recent research showed that a pot belly greatly increases the risk of heart attacks.
A 12-year-study of more than 100,000 men and women revealed that waist size is strongly linked health, with those with the biggest bellies being more than 40 per cent more likely to suffer from hardening of the arteries, angina and heart attacks than those with washboard stomachs.
At greatest risk were those who developed a beer gut, while still young, the US study showed.