Soy, Is it Really Good For You?

soybeans,soy,breast cancer,menopause,vitamin B12 deficiencyFor some time, researchers have noted Asian women show fewer perimenopausal symptoms than other groups, and researchers have attributed this to their soy-rich diets; however, this may not be true. Various studies conducted over the past few years are showing different results. In fact, soy may cause more health problems than it cures, and if anyone thought soy was the miracle food, they need to think again.

According to an internationally known expert on menopause, Dr. John R. Lee of Virginia Hopkins, not all soy products produce positive effects and some may actually harm you because “soy phytoestrogens act, in effect, as surrogate estrogens [which also means soy can increases your risks of breast cancer or cause other problems].” Lee also claims while studies have shown soy can alleviate certain menopausal symptoms, what studies have not revealed is that when soy groups and placebo groups were studied in relation to hot flashes, they achieved almost identical results, although the soy group did show a slight reduction in the intensity of their hot flashes. 

An article in the New York Times, pointed out, “Some studies suggest that soy foods may prevent cancers. This research, largely based on population surveys, has found that women in Japan, who eat a lot of soy, also have a low incidence of breast cancer, although the relationship is far from proven. Laboratory and animal studies have found conflicting results, with some studies finding that soy isoflavones act as anticancer agents and others finding that the isoflavones may promote some breast tumors.” What doctors are now theorizing is that soy products might help prevent breast cancer when consumed at an early age, before a young girl develops her breasts, and when consumed later in life may contribute to or cause certain types of cancer. 

Other news on soy is also not positive. For example, according to one of America’s most well-known food experts, Beatrice Trum Hunter, soy has numerous drawbacks. In her article, The Downside of Soybean Consumption, Hunter points out that for soy to be useful and safe, it needs to processed and fermented in a certain way and most soybean products in America are not. Moreover, Hunter alleges most soybean products in America contain “anti-nutrients” and prevent blood from clotting. Soy also blocks trypsin enzyme activity and that is important because it breaks down protein and allows vitamin B12 to be assimilated by the body, which is necessary for energy production.

That doesn’t seem to be the worst of the problems with soy. Hunter maintains most soy products contain other anti-nutrients that prevent the absorption of certain minerals, such as zinc, magnesium, iron, and calcium: Zinc deficiencies have been associated with a variety of chronic problems, as has deficiencies in magnesium; a deficiency in iron causes anemia; and, everyone knows calcium is needed to maintain strong bones. These deficiencies are a big problem particularly for vegetarians who rely primarily on soybeans as their source of protein, because not only will they be deficient in vitamin B12 but also in vital minerals needed for good health.

Soy is also linked to other problems. For instance, according to Hunter, many allergies can be directly linked to soy and that is “attributable to the proliferation of soy and soy constituents in many commercially formulated products.” Other groups are also voicing concerns about soy. According to Roger W. Wicke, PhD, in the Herbalist Review, Issue 2000 #4, soy causes all sorts of problems. “Reproductive problems, infertility, thyroid disease and liver disease…have been observed for several species of animals including mice, cheetah, quail, pigs, rats, sturgeon and sheep. Human children who were fed soy-based formula developed various problems ranging from extreme emotional behavior, asthma, immune system problems, pituitary insufficiency, thyroid disorders and irritable bowel syndrome.”

With all this bad new, soy’s status as a wonder food is now in question. In Canada, in 1999, the Canadian Health Coalition issued a press release and called on their Health Minister, Allan Rock, to restrict soy-based infant formulas because of safety issues. Certain organic groups and individuals, such as NoSoy headed by an R.N., have lobbied against soy. Whether lobbying will help still remains to be seen as soy producers have a strong lobby group themselves. In the meantime, if there are benefits to soy, they may come at a big expense, which was pointed out by one critic against soy who wrote, “the bottom line is that the safety of soy foods has yet to be proven, [but despite]…that human beings have become guinea pigs.”

For information on how to avoid soy in your diet, read How to Avoid Soy.

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