Is soy good for you or is it bad for you? As you might expect, it depends on who you ask. I used to eat soy for the health benefits but no longer do so. Research now shows that soy may actually risk good health.
The Case Against Soy
Ninety-one percent of soy grown in the U.S. is a genetically-modified organism (GMO). Monsanto’s toxic herbicide, Roundup, is sprayed on soy in liberal doses. In addition, Dr. Joseph Mercola claims that soy contains harmful hormones. Dr. Mercola is a renowned but controversial natural health expert and physician. He is one of many natural health practitioners who claim women are particularly vulnerable to soy phytoestrogens and isoflavones.
Scientific American confirms that certain pesticides and industrial by-products that are used on food can interact with the same receptor molecules as estrogen and alter hormones. Estrogen–mimickers, or xenoestrogens, “mimic” the effects of estrogen and link to receptor sites.
The United Soybean Board has published research supporting the health claims of soy on its website Soy Connection. I remain skeptical of any food that needs to be bolstered with so much research. I also question the funding sources behind the research. Consider:
- All soybean producers pay a mandatory assessment of one-half to one percent of the net market price of soybeans. The total, something like $80 million annually, supports United Soybean’s program to “strengthen the position of soybeans in the marketplace and maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets for uses for soybeans and soybean products.”
- State soybean councils from Maryland, Nebraska, Delaware, Arkansas, Virginia, North Dakota, and Michigan provide another $2.5 million for research.
- Published in the Wall Street Journal, October 27, 1995, private companies like Archer Daniels Midland also contribute. ADM spent $4.7 million for advertising on Meet the Press and $4.3 million on Face the Nation in one year.
Dr. Mercola is not against all soy. He claims that organic and properly fermented soy can be healthy. Dr. Mercola says unless soy is fermented (tempeh, miso, natto, or traditionally made soy sauce) you’re better off avoiding it.
On hundred grams of boiled whole soybeans contain large amounts of Manganese, Selenium, Copper, Potassium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Iron, Calcium, Vitamin B6, Folate, Riboflavin, Thiamin, and Vitamin K. While this seems impressive, soybeans are also quite high in phytates, a binding substance that reduces absorption.
Soybeans are also a decent source of protein, but processing soy at high temperatures can reduce the quality of the proteins. There is also evidence that soy is effective in lowering cholesterol and may help reduce the risk for prostate cancer in old age.
As noted earlier, over 90 percent of the soy produced in the United States in genetically modified (GMO) and swimming in the herbicide Roundup. Roundup has a bad reputation and may be associated with a number of serious health problems. Soy contains isoflavones that serve as endocrine disruptors. The steroid hormone estrogen is important for regulating sexual development and reproductive cycles. The isoflavones in soy are capable of activating estrogen receptors and can interfere with the normal functions. This interference can reduce estrogen activity because estrogen is prevented from binding. It can also increase estrogen activity because receptors are activated.
Soy isoflavones might also cause breast cancer. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that women in a study group who received 60 grams of soy protein in their diet had a significant increase in the number of epithelial cells in their breasts after only 14 days. Epithelial cells are the cells that are most likely to turn cancerous. In another study published in the American Association for Cancer Research, 7 of 24 women (29.2 percent) had an increased number of breast epithelial cells when they supplemented with soy protein. However, Dr. Erica Mayer, M.D., M.P.H., a medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, said to Huffington Post, “The idea is that this could potentially fuel growth of breast cancer, but that doesn’t bear out in the data.”
Soy may lead to low level disruptions in the menstrual cycles of women. It may also have negative effects on male reproductive health. A study of 99 men attending an infertility clinic showed that those with the lowest sperm count were the subjects that had eaten the most soy over the last three months. It should be noted that the results of this study are only a statistical correlation.
Finally, soy may interfere with the function of the thyroid. Thirty-seven Japanese test subjects were given 30 grams of soybeans for 3 months and showed an increase in the marker for impaired thyroid function. Symptoms included malaise, constipation, sleepiness and thyroid enlargement. All symptoms disappeared after the subjects stopped eating soy.
Living larger than ever,
My Bariatric Life