Monday, August 23, 2010

Debunking Soy Myths

With all of the recent posting on health, I have received many, many (MANY) inquiries about the dangers of soy. I asked my friend, Jana Yowell, to guest post on this subject. Jana has a B.S. in Kinesiology, is a Personal Trainer and Level 1 Certified Health Coach. She and I went to high school together, but lost touch over the years. Once we reconnected, it was fascinating to find we had so much common ground when it came to health and nutrition. Jana really, truly cares about helping others improve their lives by improving their health. I would like to personally thank her for taking the time to give us some answers on this subject.

You can stay connected with Jana via her web site, Jana Yowell.


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(Jana Yowell at the 2007 Houston Marathon)


There is a great deal of misinformation being spread about soy. It should be known that most of the anti-soy stories can be linked to two extremely powerful, wealthy and influential groups in the United States.

The first group is the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF). WAPF claims to be dedicated to promoting “good” nutrition by restoring nutrient-dense animal products to the diet. It claims that saturated animal fat is essential for good health, which is contrary to a large body of scientific research proving that a plant based diet is the way to achieve optimal health and soy is a part of that healthy diet. Therefore, the WAPF have a vested interest in making people believe that soy is an unhealthy food. The WAPF has deep pockets and that is one of the reasons they have been able to spread the anti-soy message so effectively.

Secondly, the dairy industry is a prominent group in the propagation of soy misnomers. The dairy industry is very profitable because of the widespread and long-standing myth that “milk” and/or dairy in any form is some sort of miracle health food conducive to good health, strong bones and the coolness of a milk mustache made popular by ads featuring celebrities. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth and that truth is progressively becoming public knowledge correlating to people’s desire to get more informed about the food they eat. Thus, with the said desire to become more informed and all the truthful information about food/dairy that has been hiding in the closet for years, and now out in the light, people are starting to consider alternatives that are plant-based, including soy foods. With these new developments, the dairy industry’s historically sound profits are being challenged, giving them large reason and interest to sway people away from soy foods.

The Dairy Bureau spends hundreds of millions of dollars in advertising to tell people that cows milk is superior to soymilk. According to The Bureau, “unfortified soy beverages contain only half of the phosphorus, 40% of the riboflavin, 10% of the vitamin A and 3% of the calcium in a serving of cow’s milk. However, consider the following:

*Most people who are consuming the standard American Diet of meat and dairy are eating entirely too much phosphorus, which causes the de-calcification of the bones. Therefore, less consumption of phosphorus is an advantage.

*As for the issue of 40% of the riboflavin. Riboflavin is found in green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and grains. So when people eat a healthy diet, this is not an issue. For example, one teaspoon of nutritional yeast contains as much riboflavin as an entire quart of cow’s milk.

*Consuming a healthy diet will get you plenty of vitamin A. Vitamin A deficiency is rare in North Americans who eat a plant-based diet. Cow’s milk is fortified, which is the reason it high in vitamin A.

*3% of the calcium is a misrepresentation. Many brands of soymilk provide just as much calcium as cow’s milk. Edensoy provides 67%.

However, the dairy industry fails to mention the following:

*Cow’s milk is 9 times higher in saturated fat than soy.

*Soy beverages provide more than 10 times the essential fatty acids as dairy milk.

*Soy beverages are cholesterol free, while dairy milk elevates both.

*Soy beverages lower total and LDL cholesterol, while dairy milk elevates both.

*Soymilk contains phytochemicals (naturally occurring chemical compounds in plants) that may be protective against chronic diseases and there are no phytochemicals in dairy.

One of the claims of the anti-soy crusaders makes is that soy increases the risk of cancer. Their argument for this is that soy has ‘estrogenic’ qualities and may increase the risk of various hormone-related conditions including cancer. In order to understand why many still continue to cite that soy is not a health food/ ‘bad’ for you, one must first understand the difference between the hormone, human estrogen, and phytoestrogens. Human estrogen is a hormone, that in excess, is potent to the body. Thus, excess estrogen can potentially cause cancer. Human estrogen is NOT found in soy. However, what is found in soy, are phytoestrogens. Confusion often arises about the “estrogenic” qualities of soy because human estrogen and phytoestrogens are structurally similar. It is vital to understand that their mere structural similarity is very beneficial to health because of phytoestrogen’s ability to bind to cells in the body, effectively blocking the more potent activity of human estrogen. Progressively so, phytoestrogens (found in soy), are being found to have a plethora of health benefits including, but not limited to: preventing breast cancer, lowering LDL cholesterol, reducing menopausal symptoms, and enhancing vascular function.

Another false claim made by the anti-soy folks is that “a infant fed exclusively soy formulas, receives the estrogenic equivalent of at least 5 birth control pills per day.” Again there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support this. There have been no scientific data or reports of hormonal abnormalities in people who were fed soy formula as infants. I feel I should mention that it is still recommended that babies be breastfed over formula. However, when breastfeeding is not an option, organic soy formula is the next best alternative.

Furthermore, there are questions about people believing soy to be a highly allergenic food. I believe that it is not soy that people are allergic to, but genetically modified soy. The solution is that people should only consume organic soy products, as these products have not been genetically modified in any way. In fact, organic soybeans contain a broad range of valuable nutrients and are an excellent source of protein. Scientific evidence shows that soy protein lowers cholesterol and protects against cardiovascular disease. Soy foods have also been shown to protect against diabetes, menopausal hot flashes and certain cancers. There is solid scientific evidence that eating soy foods in adolescence and in adulthood can even lower the risk of breast cancer. There are a number of peer-reviewed scientific studies showing the positive benefits of consuming soy.

Ultimately, I will continue to consume organic soy foods as they benefit my own health, and will keep recommending them to my clients as part of a healthy plant based diet.

Lastly, remember to look for the scientific evidence when you hear the anti-soy crusaders telling you to avoid soy. Likely, you will find someone with a hidden agenda and no scientific proof to support their claims.

26 comments:

miss tejota said...

I don't have an issue with organic soy products, I consume them. And do to me being lactose and gluten intolerant quite often. It's just to me soy is becoming the new corn, it's in everything and often I'm noticing that the products that soy is in, is not organic soy, but modified soy and it's looks to be used as a filler product. And the modified versions of soy are a concern to me.

Thanks for the post.

Christine said...

T.J., that's exactly why I try to push people to lean more toward whole foods. Know what is going into what you're eating. Keep it simple as much as possible.

Even "health food" falls right into the mass production processed pitfalls. So, anything processed should be understood - read those labels!!

Mommy Jenn said...

Well said, I agree 100%. I have yet to see any real evidence for the anti-soy propaganda. The vast majority of research supports its inclusion in a health diet.

Steph, G's Mom said...

thank you for this christine. it was the estrogen issue i was concerned with, as G at 7 already has a couple signs of early puberty (a bit of underarm hair coming in, and definitely BO! no boobie buds yet though thank goodness. she would be over the moon about that one though! LOL) so in our bid to try to go more vegan I didn't want to contribute more to that.

steph

Integrity Singer said...

ah yes, the corruption of our "friendly" FDA and USDA and Dairy cohorts. That new food guide pyramid? It's a complete fabrication and was created mostly to benefit the big money makers as mentioned here, not in the least way supporting what would be healthy for human consumption.

I recommend to all people reading this comment and post that they also read "don't eat this book" and "fast food nation" both texts are rich in debunking the politics and the machine behind what is advertised to the consumer as "healthy eating"

Shannon- said...

I'm not against soy. Not at all. Infact- all for it. But - there still needs to be more research on the estrogen effects of soy- especially on children. There are many instances of african born children (who have a tendancy to 'mature earlier physically" anyway) being fed soy formulas and soy milks and by 18mo-5y are developing breast and 'hair' under there. (which I won't type, that word, in fear of you getting some random hit from perverts googling crap). Certainly- it could be other things- but.. again.. more research before claiming it all bunk-- that's just doing what the big corps are doing.

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

I'm all for doing research, and KNOWING. It's the only way I'm still alive. And my research led me to believe that regular useage of soy products (due to dairy allergies) was what was causing my health problems (hypo-thyroidism) and my daughter's (hypo-thyroidism AND very, very early puberty when we did not have a family history of that). I pulled both of us off of soy products. My thyroid issues AND my daughter's both improved. I have been med-free for years now. Pulling her off immediately slowed her hitherto steady march in development, and her thyroid issues eventually improved as well. She's no longer on anything regularly for her thyroid. So that's my story, for what it's worth. I'm not ready to go back on Soy . . . even though I'm perfectly ready to believe that some of the backlash against soy is likely politically motivated.

Cathy said...

Great post with a wonderful insight into soy. I hate that it gets such a bad rap. We don't eat a lot of it, but when we do, it's organic!!

Jolene said...

I was wondering about the Soy/Thyroid link as well. My daughter is also Hypothyroid and has no Thyroid to speak of at all. We've been told and I've researched that we suppose to keep her from Soy because it inhibits her body from absorbing the thyroid meds properly. (As well as Kale and other greens in that family...but its hard to keep this girl from her Kale! YUM-O)

steelwingedbutterfly said...

Jana Yowell is misled about the Weston A Price Foundation, and about soy. For one who warns us to be wary of corporate-driven studies, she spouts the results of corporate-driven studies. WAPF is a non-profit charity, affiliated with no corporate agenda. If one actually visits the website (and I hope you do! It's awesome!), they equally debunk the health myths of soy AND milk, unless these products are fermented according to traditional practices. Tofu, soy milk, and other soy products are all processed foods, and it is contradictory promote a whole-foods diet and yet endorse industrialized, highly-processed-with-nasty-chemicals soy products. Soy is a politically correct food, like the USDA Food Pyramid is politically correct. That alone is reason to be wary!

Christine, I love reading your blog as it relates to attachment parenting and loving your kids. I encourage you and your readers to read a little of the Weston A Price Foundation's website or books, or read the controversial "The Vegetarian Myth" by Lierre Keith (who almost died from over 20 years of vegan eating, and still suffers permanent damage). I would love to hear your response of that book, particularly.

Blessings and health! :)

Summer said...

And this is where I'm torn. Yes! Whole foods, not processed. But ... soy is a heavily processed product. Yes, we eat far, far, far too much meat and dairy in the US, and not the good kids either (grass fed, free range). But, I still just cannot jump on the "soy is perfect in every way" bandwagon. Not enough research, and too much propaganda from both sides.

On a side note, I have read "The Vegetarian Myth" and thought it was crap. It read, to me, like nothing but scare tactics and propaganda, the writing was jumpy and hard to follow, and felt more like a person with poor health due to genetics most likely (we're not all blessed to be healthy forever) searching for something to point to. And since she had been lied to that being a vegan would make her perfect (see, too much propaganda) she wants veganism to take the blame entirely for her health issues.

Evolutionary, we're not pure vegans. I know there's the myth of a perfect, wonderful vegan past... but it's not. Even apes in the milk eat insects, and some eat meat in small parts. And tons of animal eggs, turtle shells, ect... have been found at human camp sites. We grew eating meat to a degree. Certainly not to the degree we do today, but in small amounts occasionally.

Summer said...

And that "Even apes in the milk eat insects" should have been "in the wild". Gah! Bedtime for me!

Threads of Light said...

You have me thinking, thank you. My journey has led me from being into soy, to thinking it nasty stuff, to now thinking a little more deeply; for myself, this time.

amberwoods said...

Hello threads of light, you are right: we all need to think for ourselves. I am glad someone mentioned checking who is funding the bucks for the latest research we read about eg hot tea is good for you: funded by Lipton. The list goes on and on.

Llama Momma said...

Last week I went through the drive-thru twice. This week, I'm eating real food and trying soy and feel better than I've felt in a long time.

I made a kale salad for the first time this week, and one of my kids scarfed it down and said it was his new favorite food. No joke.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

Recovering Noah said...

Don't really care about the milk or soy issue. I don't like either one of them. I'm more concerned with how Jana got those amazing arms! Come on, Christine... we want her workout details! =)

Leslie

HL said...

Stellwingedbutterly (or maybe Sally Fallon?) – the WAPF is completely founded on nutrition advice that is not based in science. If anyone thinks that advocating meat and butter is a good idea, then I hope you have good health insurance for your upcoming clogged arteries and correlative heart problems. Any diet high in animal protein/animal products, and saturated fat, is unhealthy. To me the information in this article wasn’t ‘spouting corporate driven studies, but contrarily, studies backed by science. Mind you, the WAPF seems to produce articles with supposedly scientific references that either quote the same bunch of people (each other), ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or distort what was said in the study, claiming saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease.

It was pointed out that soymilk is not a “whole food,” – yes, soy foods are processed, and SOME, highly so. Essentially, anything not raw is processed. However, relative to other foods, there are a variety of soyfoods/soymilks that aren’t all that highly processed. My point being, unless you eat completely raw plant-based foods (because raw milk from a cow is not ‘whole’), you are eating processed foods, and thus shouldn’t advocate whole foods? I highly disagree – just because you can’t do everything, does not mean you shouldn’t do merely something. I don’t think the point of this article is to consume a diet comprised of mostly soy foods, but rather organic, unmodified soy in moderation, along with a diet based mostly on whole, planet-based foods is healthy for you. Anything in mass consumption is, of course, bad for you.

Regarding the “evolutionary” point– can we not see that we have far more than transcended our primitive state? It is not necessary, or healthy for us to consume animal products, grass-fed, or otherwise. Excess animal products in the diet, organic, grass-fed, or otherwise have been scientifically proven to be unhealthy for humans. Not to mention, we now have the full capacity to live off a plant-based diet, and be healthier and wealthier by doing so.

I have not read The Vegetarian Myth and would like to just for a laugh. It is a rarity to hear that people are ‘suffering’ from a plant-based diet (if they’re actually consuming the right kind of vegan/vegetarian foods). Based on the ton of modern reputable scientific research there is out there on a plant-based/vegan diet, compared to a few people who claim to be suffering from such, I’ll stick with my fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and occasional organic soy foods while I continue to be an avid and extremely healthy mother and marathoner.

Heather L said...

Regarding the “evolutionary” point– can we not see that we have far more than transcended our primitive state? It is not necessary, or healthy for us to consume animal products, grass-fed, or otherwise. Excess animal products in the diet, organic, grass-fed, or otherwise have been scientifically proven to be unhealthy for humans. Not to mention, we now have the full capacity to live off a plant-based diet, and be healthier and wealthier by doing so.

I have not read The Vegetarian Myth and would like to just for a laugh. It is a rarity to hear that people are ‘suffering’ from a plant-based diet (if they’re actually consuming the right kind of vegan/vegetarian foods). Based on the ton of modern reputable scientific research there is out there on a plant-based/vegan diet, compared to a few people who claim to be suffering from such, I’ll stick with my fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and occasional organic soy foods while I continue to be an avid and extremely healthy mother and marathoner.

Heather L said...

Stellwingedbutterly – the WAPF is completely founded on nutrition advice that is not based in science. If anyone thinks that advocating meat and butter is a good idea, then I hope you have good health insurance for your upcoming clogged arteries and correlative heart problems. Any diet high in animal protein/animal products, and saturated fat, is unhealthy. To me the information in this article wasn’t ‘spouting corporate driven studies, but contrarily, studies backed by science. Mind you, the WAPF seems to produce articles with supposedly scientific references that either quote the same bunch of people (each other), ignore a ton of modern reputable research, or distort what was said in the study, claiming saturated fat is okay and not related to heart disease.

It was pointed out that soymilk is not a “whole food,” – yes, soy foods are processed, and SOME, highly so. Essentially, anything not raw is processed. However, relative to other foods, there are a variety of soyfoods/soymilks that aren’t all that highly processed. My point being, unless you eat completely raw plant-based foods (because raw milk from a cow is not ‘whole’), you are eating processed foods, and thus shouldn’t advocate whole foods? I highly disagree – just because you can’t do everything, does not mean you shouldn’t do merely something. I don’t think the point of this article is to consume a diet comprised of mostly soy foods, but rather organic, unmodified soy in moderation, along with a diet based mostly on whole, planet-based foods is healthy for you. Anything in mass consumption is, of course, bad for you.

JYowell1 said...

First, I must say I recommend a whole foods plant based diet to my clients. I suggest 90% plant based and 70% of that should be raw. I never advocate eating too much of one food. There are numerous foods that contain naturally occurring pesticides that can cause mutations if eaten in high enough quantities. Such as broccoli, lentils and grapefruit. This does not mean that you should stop eating broccoli, lentils and grapefruit. In fact, if you made it your policy to eat no foods containing substances that in large enough quantities would be harmful, you would have to stop eating.

This is one of the reasons a person's diet should be varied. For most people, soy is a great addition to the diet along with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

marlo said...

http://www.naturalnews.com/022630.html
Unfermented soy info including GMO soy

Katie and Steph said...

for the people who said they had definite health problems due to soy...were you eating the organic kind always or the GMO?

Happymom4 aka Hope Anne said...

Mostly organic. And long enough ago that I don't think it was GMO yet.

Cathy Givans said...

I love this post! I am constantly hearing unsubstantiated statements about what is healthy (i.e. Cow's milk, meat). I have recently stopped recieveng WIC for good reason. All of the cereals, although healthier than many, are still highly processed and full of sugars. Very few are whole grain. There are a few exceptions. Also, I got a lot of guff from the WIC nurse about not accepting fish or milk or cheese. She was highly concerned that we would all be anemic. What a surprise when she checked our iron levels and every single member of my family was right where we should be! She of course questioned how long we have been veg and was shocked when I told her 8 months. I have never felt healthier in my life! Of course, I still have "relapses". But we always come back because I miss the way I feel when I eat totaaly vegan and lose the processed foods and sugars. We only eat soy a couple of times a month and we opt for rice or almond milk because we like the flavor better. And I don't have any children with any hormonal issues except my soon to be teenager. All that said, no matter what you eat, there is such a thing as too much. Also, when you read "health food" labels, you will find that most boxed or prepackaged foods contain things that your body just simply wasn't meant to consume. When Christine says whole foods, I believe she is referring to REAL food. Things that are not packaged or processed. You can be a vegetarian/vegan and still be eating junk. Preparing as much of your food from scratch as you can eliminates the fillers and preservatives in your daily diet. It doesn't have to be difficult. I too have five kids and the last thing I want to do is spend half my day preparing food! It can be done and your body will love you for it. As to how claims can be made that a veg diet is the reason someone has health issues, the above mentioned could have something to do with it.

Katie and Steph said...

It's very interesting because there is no definitive answer! Someone follows a diet like WAPF or Nourishing Traditions, and gets healthy and feels great. Someone else follows a vegan diet and gets healthy and feels great. How can this be? well i suppose if BEFORE those diets they were eating typical american junk and processed food, they would feel better either way. But if one was DEFINITELY not good for you, why would so many people claim such great health from it? Either!

I was reading LIttle House on the Prairie to G last night and it was detailing in little kid style what life was like on the farm. What they ate. It was probably exactly what the WAPF puts forth as the ideal diet. SO MUCH ANIMAL product....dairy cheese and meat. Is this why the life expectancy back then was 35-50 yrs old? because of that?

My tendency for myself is toward the vegan....i mean i want it to be. i have a thick, big, slushy body type, and the idea of filling it with animal fat just makes me feel even fatter. i will never give up sushi though! :) if the only meat i ever ate again was fish i'd be fine with it.

steph

Wendi said...

glad to have found this post...thoughts to ponder...and yes, I've read all the stuff by WAPF and Fallon's Nourishing Traditions - it made sense before we GMO'd all our animals and their feed sources and began consuming them in quantities that are ungodly for any one food...meat at every meal (and some snacks) is just not ok...that said, I don't think there is anything wrong with occasional healthy (read: naturally raised and fed) meat consumption. And if you watch the TED video on the Blue Zones of Centenarians around the world, all of them have some occasional meat source in their diet.