Researchers say that soy isoflavones along with combination anti-retroviral therapy can protect against cognitive decline in people infected with HIV.

Earlier studies have linked soy isoflavones to decrease in heart disease in postmenopausal women.

Other studies have shown that a diet high in soy isoflavones can protect against breast cancer, osteoporosis.

According to National Institutes of Health, HIV does not directly invade the nerve cells but it jeopardizes them. Common symptoms that indicate neurological decline are confusion, headaches, behavioral changes, progressive weakness and numbness in hands and legs. HIV infection alters the size of certain brain structures involved in learning d information processing, the agency says.

Reports say that nearly 39 to 70 percent of people with AIDS or symptomatic HIV develop some form of neurological disorders.

“Findings in the present study demonstrate that soy isoflavones offer a similar protective effect as endogenous estradiol via a selective estrogen receptor-mediated mechanism against HIV-1 Tat-induced cell death. Isoflavones, acting as selective ER agonists targeting the neuroprotective effects associated with estradiol, may represent a safe and viable neuroprotectant along with cART to improve the neurological health of both men and women with HAND [HIV Associated Neurological Decline],” write Sheila Adams and colleagues.

According to NIH, neurological complications are seen in almost 50 percent of people affected by AIDS.

In the present study, the researchers were able to demonstrate the protective effects of soy isoflavone - genistein or daidzein - using cell culture lines. They found that these isoflavones prevent cell death.

The study is published in the journal PLoS ONE.

According to many reports the incidence of people suffering from HAND has significantly decreased since the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy or HAART.

“The inability of antiretroviral therapy to prevent development of neurocognitive dysfunction indicates the need for adjunctive therapies to address the neurodegenerative and subsequent neurological disturbances associated with HAND,” write the researchers.

They say that cART has been successful in suppressing the virus but the toxins from “protected viral reserves” may expose the cells to harmful toxins.