The “Soy Scare”

Thursday May 6, 2010

You may love it, hate it, or be scared of it.  I will try to make some sense out of this product to make it more clear for all the people out there that enjoy it, or would love to try it, feeling safe doing it.

When you search the web with the keyword “soy” in your search engine you will get numerous articles, forums, and recipes.  Many of these articles may say that soy is one of those super foods, while others will disappoint you with their negativity and bad reputation of soy.

The truth is that soy is not horrible; instead it is a great product.  Some soy products that you may be familiar with are: soy milk, tofu, soy sauce, edamame. It may be also added to many other foods.

One of the biggest assumptions of soy products is that they contain molecules that mimic the female hormone, and therefore men may be scared of it (“may grow breasts”) while women feel like it will disrupt their menstrual cycles.

Estrogen is one of the female sex hormones.  Isoflavones are compounds found in plants that act like estrogens.  Soy is one of those plants that contain isoflavones.  In one study conducted on 34 healthy women (median age 36) the portions were randomized to 40mg or 140mg isoflavones daily for each woman through one menstrual cycle. The result of this study was that they didn’t find any estrogenic effect (Nutrition & cancer, 2009).  The bottom line is that if you occasionally eat soy products (not in a very concentrated form) they will most likely not alter your menstrual cycle and men will not start growing breast tissue.

Due to its high protein and low cholesterol content, soy can be used as a meal replacement or dietary component in weight loss.  There are many studies that support the association of soy consumption and lower body weight.  One study assessed lifetime soy consumption and body mass index (BMI) among 1,418 women.  This 5 year study concluded that higher soy consumption in adulthood was related to lower BMI (European Journal of Nutrition, 2007). It is not clear though whether the source of dietary protein plays a role in the regulation of food intake and body weight, or other potential mechanisms (reduction of appetite, increase in satiety, or glycemic control).

There are actually international soy conferences in which scientists from around the world come together to review their research and new finding about soy.  Some clinical evidence for the health benefits of soy that they mention are: helps lower cholesterol (now a well known fact), cognitive function, anti-cancer properties, anti-inflammatory effects, as well as many other benefits.

When you do your web search you may find all kinds of posts about soy, much of it warnings about its horrible consequences for the thyroid, the brain – you name it. What you won’t find is much of anything resembling solid proof for these claims. There may be some negative aspects to soy, such as allergies (as can be with many other foods) or other compounds that may play a small role on the body, but working some of it into your diet is probably okay, particularly if it’s replacing red meat. Swapping soy-based foods for meat means trading a source of saturated fat and cholesterol for one with polyunsaturated fat, fiber, and some healthful vitamins and minerals almost always a good nutrition deal.  But as with anything, you should not over do it, always remember to keep a well balanced diet, with a variety of foods!

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1 Comment »

Great info! Thanks for sharing… 😉

May 7th, 2010 | 10:26 am
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