Articles and Information
Is it Oh, Boy! Soy! or Oy! Soy! Or Just Another Media Ploy?
When people ask "What about soy?" my first thought is, what is it that you are really asking? Soy as a protein source? Soy and its various means of being eaten? Soy and cancer claims? Soy, what does it all mean?
by Marty Davey
Why is there this huge controversy to begin with? [Sorry but this is going to be a LOT more factoid-biochem-speak than I usually write. For the scientifically-phobic, skip ahead about three paragraphs.] It's the soy isoflavones and soy isolates. [There will not be a test, just find some word to substitute these scary chemical words, like the soy LaLa's and soy Boo-Boo's.] These soy things, LaLa's and Boo-Boo's, are part of the protein in the soy bean. Now, there have been some animal studies, rats studies in particular, that show that soy isolates, [Boo-Boo's] are very good at growing cancer cells. Most folks think it is a bad idea to ingest food that can grow cancer.
On the hand, these isoflavones, [LaLa's] mimic estrogen in the body. Estrogen is a hormone normally produced in the body. It is linked to promoting uterine, breast and endometrial cancers. So, we have the isoflavones and estrogen and they can fit into the same binding spots, but do different stuff when they bind. It's as if you have a car key that can fit two different cars. You know that you can get the key to fit into an estrogen Porsche. If you make that connection with a hot red estrogen Porsche you might fly down the road like a crazy person possibly causing accidents and getting a speeding ticket. Your key also fits a beige, isoflavone SUV. This mobile doesn't have the same effect on you and you drive safely like a soccer mother. Soy isoflavones are fitting into the same places that crazy estrogen does. However, it is thought that by substituting LaLa's in binding with the receptors your body keeps from metabolizing the carcinogenic cells.
The media has put us on notice for every snazzy or conflicting study that is published by interested parties that can put together a press release. Please read Dina Aronson's piece on a soy study concerning infertility rates in men. Dina writes that the study really doesn't say anything that we science heads can conclude. However, reports about this study showed up in a host of media outlets. [http://veganrd.blogspot.com/2008/07/soy-and-male-fertility-study.html]
I have attended many presentations this year concerning soy and cancer. The presenters included Mark Messina, PhD, of the Soy Institute, Tim Key, PhD, of the EPIC-OXFORD Study, Dr. Joel Simon, Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard, Dr. Alison Duncan of Guelph University and John McDougall, MD. The presentations were soy and cancer, soy and cardiac issues, soy and cancer survivors, and soy, get over it already.
With all of this incredibly confusing and incomplete information how is it the Asian cultures eat so much of this stuff and have low cancer rates, low reports of hot flashes and issues with menopause, and live so long?
You need to remember the ancient soy chowing cultures did not have Beer Brats, Tofu hot dogs and soy ice cream on a daily basis. They had edemame, tofu, tempeh and miso. Soy is eaten in Japan via fairly unprocessed means. Edemame and tempeh are great. Less so the tofu and miso, but still a couple of ounces or to use as a flavoring daily is fine. [An estimate of a couple of ounces is the interior palm of your hand.] If you want a soy beverage, realize that moistening your cereal with some is not problematic, whereas I would avoid a glassful at breakfast, lunch and dinner. The average intake in Japan is between 25-50grams per day. In other words, a couple of ounces a day. You can estimate the amount of soy in a product by looking at the amount of protein on the label. This is what Dr. John McDougall does. He states on his website [http://www.drmcdougall.com/misc/2005nl/april/050400pusoy.htm ], that a certain sausage patty company's patties have 10g of soy. That is the same number that is on the label of the product, [http://www.seeveggiesdifferently.com/product_detail.aspx?id=355]. However, some of these soy products are wheat gluten with soy isolates or tofu, so the amount is not listed anywhere. I would just use the protein amount on label for simplicity's sake.
As I have stated in other writings, I do have soy convenience foods at home. [Although I'm not sure where in the freezer.] However, they are a treat. We base our dietary protein on grains, beans, nuts, nut butters, seeds with a meal including tempeh or tofu once or twice a week.
Also, the protective aspects of soy have been attributed to moderate amounts included in the daily food intake from a young age [under 15 years]. As we get older the data is less supportive that soy protects against cancer in any of its manifestations. On the other hand, including soy products instead of animal products always comes with a drop in cardiac events due to elimination of saturated fat, cholesterol and nitrogen excretion stress on your kidneys.
Here's my take home message from all that I have learned—eat soy as the Asians have for centuries and you will be fine.