In the last few years soybeans and soy products have been getting a lot of bad press, both in the general media and particularly the natural medicine press. Claims such as soy binds essential nutrients, causes blood agglutination (clotting), contains growth inhibitory substances. Does soy shrink the brain? Leave you anaemic? Promote cancer? Interfere with you thyroid hormones? Is soy toxic? Etc. What are the facts in the case?
Firstly we have had soy come to the front as a food item in the western world, Soy we virtually unknown to us in earlier years. Soy has been part of the Chinese and Japanese diet for most of their thousands of years of history. This should raise a few questions immediately. Why don’t the traditional Chinese and Japanese have the above mentioned health problems? If soy is as dangerous as it has been made out to be why have they survived their history so well? Bill Sardi (1) reports that although Fallon & Enig acknowledge the incidence of breast, prostate and colon cancer among Japanese and Asians is lower that other countries. They ignore the fact that Japanese eat pro-cancer foods such as pickled, smoked and salted meats, in addition to raw sushi, which contains parasites (another cancer factor). Also the frying of meats can promote the development of carcinogens. Sardi also added that the effects of these pro-cancer foods can be counteracted by the inclusion of soy in the ground meat prior to frying (2)
Some of the observations made by Sardi:-
The American diet (common to the entire western world) is almost totally lacking in phytoestrogens which can result in hormone imbalances which may be helped by the addition of plant estrogens.
Some people are allergic to soy, but no one seems to be warning people that other common allergenic foods include cow’s milk, eggs, wheat, corn and fish, and telling them to stay away from them. The soy allergies may be due to the pesticides etc in the soy, not the soy itself.
Modified soy baby formulas have been shown to improve bone mineral content just as well as cow’s milk.
IP6-phytic acid in soy has been found to reduce the risk of colon cancer in an animal study via its ability to chelate iron (3) [Note inorganic iron caused the proliferation of the harmful organisms. Organic iron would not be chelated]
A great difference exists between Human and animal studies. [I would like to add that if I wanted to prove that arsenic was safe I could design an experiment using sheep and prove it. Sheep are not affected by arsenic like humans. Arsenic pentoxide was the favourite dip and drench used in my father’s time and it didn’t kill the sheep] It is true that soybean cereal has been shown to interfere with the growth of young rodents [I’m not a rodent, are you?]. There was however no difference noted in infants in weight gain or pancreatic enzyme production when fed soy or whey protein formula. (4)
A significant reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol was observed in a study of 31 patients with high cholesterol. (5)
SOME THING SAID ABOUT SOY:
Soy and the Thyroid
It has been said that Soy may interfere with iodine in those suffering from hypothyroidism. Also that it caused enlarged throid glands. However more recent evidence points to the zenoestrogens (estrogen like substances produced outside the body) are the cause. Soy beans are usually grown using pesticides. Goitre (enlarged thyroid) is caused by iodine deficiency. It so happens that this essential mineral is deficient in the soils in many areas of China. Therefore is would not matter what they ate grown on those soils they would be Iodine deficient. Soy’s two main hormone affecting substances Diadzein and Genistein (normalizers) have no anti-thyroid action in the literature.
Soy and Zinc deficiency
Many foods including Cow’s milk are not good sources of zinc. Does this mean that Cow’s milk causes zinc deficiency? Using the reasoning of those who claim the soy causes zinc deficiency, you would have to say yes. Many things cause mineral deficiencies, but soy per say does not if other zinc rich foods are included in the diet.
Soy and rickets
Rickets is a vitamin D deficiency which causes a failure to utilize calcium and phosphorus from the diet. This vitamin is gained from sunlight or UV light. The fact is that soy beans contain 454 mg of calcium per cup.
Soy and protein digestion
It is said that soy beans contain enzyme inhibitors which block trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. Any RAW legume contains protein inhibitors. Cooking and sprouting both de-nature the protein inhibitor. All legumes should be soaked for several hours or overnight, the water changed and simmered for 2 hours, or pressure cooked. They can also be put in a crock pot (ceramic slow cooker) after the soaking. This cooks them to perfection.
Soy and aluminium
Soy baby formula has been reported to have 10 times the aluminium content of milk formulas and 100 time that of unprocessed milk. Fact: Nearly all herbs contain high levels of aluminium, in organic form. Do not confuse this with the inorganic form you get from aluminium saucepans. Organic aluminium doesn’t have the harmful effects of the inorganic form.
Soy and amino acid deficiencies
I don’t know how anyone could make this claim but it has been said! Soy contains all the essential amino acids and is a complete protein in itself!
Soy Isolates are dangerous
This is one report that is absolutely correct! Production includes grinding, extremely high temperatures, and extraction with dangerous solvents to remove oil. It is then mixed with sugars, precipitated with an acid wash and spray dried. Dangerous additives are present due to the high temperature drying process including cancer forming nitrosamines.
BENEFITS OF SOY:
Anticancer; Improves & protects kidney function; arresting osteoporosis; stimulates bone formation; reducing cardiovascular disease, reduces menopausal conditions lowers cholesterol; weight loss by increasing thyroid hormone levels to burn up fat.
Ipriflavone, and anabolic (builds muscle and bone) isoflavone in soybeans, unlike other isoflavones in soy, has no hormonal activity. It has been found to be vastly safer that anabolic steroids and has no side effects. Tests have shown that that Ipriflavone moves nutrients out of fat into muscle and bone. It also has shown to improve endurance in experiments with rats. Finally Ipriflavone decreases cholesterol, lowering the bad LDL and increasing the good HDL cholesterol.
Soy contains two ostrogenic substances Diadzein and Genistein, both are cancer preventatives. Both are anti-Oestrogenic. Sound like a contradiction? They are actually oestrogen normalizers, if it’s high, they will reduce them, if low they raise them. By occupying hormone receptor sites they prevent xenoestrogens from filling the sites. Xenoestrogens can have 1000x the effect of intrinsic oestrogen, whereas Diadzein and Genistein have much less effect than intrinsic oestrogen. They are weakly estrogenic. Hormone disruption comes from pesticides (xenoestrogens) used in the growing of the crops, not from soy.
Phytic acid, also called phytate, is known as Inositol Hexaphosphate (IP6) and has been claimed to bind minerals and prevent their proper absorption. This assumption has been shown to be incorrect. It does bind minerals in order to transport them and release them in the body when needed. It is the truck that transports the goods. Inositol is a B group vitamin, IP6 is inositol with 6 phosphates attached to it. It is a naturally occurring substance in grains, especially corn, and in legumes. Wheat has the highest amount of phytic acid, higher than soy. If soy is dangerous because of phytates, why is nothing said about grains and other legumes?
Benefits of Phytic Acid:-
The most dramatic effect is it’s anti-cancer properties. It is instantly absorbed by cancer cells and causes them to revert back to normal cells. It is thought to be the substance in fibre which prevent colon cancer. Under it’s influence tumours shrink and disappear, and there is not the toxic overload the body produced in other cancer treatments where debris from dieing cells flood the system. IP6, Phytic acid, or phytate boosts the immune system, especial Natural Killer Cells which attack cancer cells. It increases the activity of the tumour suppressor gene P53 by 17 times. The P53 gene inhibits the pathway which allows normal cells to become cancerous.
Phytate is strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Phytic acid inhibits platelet aggregation (stickiness), which causes blood clots, contrary to popular press claims that soy does the opposite.
Inositol Hexaphosphate, IP6 Phytic acid, or Phytate is non-toxic, and its use is not associated with any significant side–effects. Previous concerns that it would bind minerals and cause mineral deficiencies have been show to be unfounded.
Hans Neeper refers to a soy phosolipids as vitamin M. These are the only substances that can transport nutrients into the cell when normal transport mechanisms don’t work.
High in Arginine – lowers Cholesterol.
Antifungal – Current research has found fungal infections to be the common factor in nearly all diseases of modern times.
We need to ask the question, why is such unfounded allegations been thrown at soy when it is threatening the dairy industry? I ask the question, you make the decision for yourself. Remember, don’t get taken by research. Give me anything you want to prove, and by manipulating experimental design and interpretation of the results and I guarantee it can be proved.
Bill Sardi. Health Reporter. Knowledge of Health, Inc, May 2000 http://www.townsendletter.com/1999_2003_subject_indices/1999_2003subjectindexS.htm
Basic Life Science 52: 105-18,1990
Proceedings Society Experimental Biology & Medicine 221:80-86, 1999
Scandinavian Journal Gastroenterology 32: 273-77, 1997
Metabolism 49: 537-43