Each year, research on the health effects of soy and soybean components seems to increase markedly. Research is not just expanding in the areas such as cancer, heart disease and osteoporosis; the soy industry suggest that soy has potential benefits that may be more extensive than previously thought. The multibillion-dollar soy industry insists that the health benefits of soy significantly outweigh any potential risk. What was once a minor crop listed in the 1913 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook, not as a food but as an industrial product, now covers 72 million acres of American farmland. Much of this harvest will be used to feed chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and salmon. Another large fraction will be squeezed to produce oil for margarine, shortenings and salad dressings. Advances in technology make it possible to produce isolated soy protein from what was once considered a waste product--the defatted, high-protein soy chips--and then transform something that looks and smells terrible into products that can be consumed by human beings. Flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers and synthetic nutrients have turned soy protein isolate, the food processors' ugly duckling, into a New Age wonder food.
Soy has been marketed not so much for its beauty but for its virtues. Early on, products based on soy protein isolate were sold as extenders and meat substitutes which failed to produce the requisite consumer demand. The industry changed its approach. "The quickest way to gain product acceptability in the less affluent society," said an industry spokesman, "is to have the product consumed on its own merit in a more affluent society." So soy is now sold to the upscale consumer, not as a cheap, poverty food but as a miracle substance that will prevent heart disease and cancer, whisk away hot flushes, build strong bones and keep us forever young.
The appropriate government bodies have duly demonized the competition -meat, milk, cheese, butter and eggs. Soy serves as meat and milk for a new generation of vegetarians. Soy not only lacks complete protein, zinc and iron, it contains compounds that block the absorption of protein, zinc and iron from other sources. Soy foods increase the body's requirements for vitamin D and B12-both essential for normal growth and development. Antithyroid substances found plentifully in soy foods inhibit thyroid function, leading to fatigue and mental problems. Phytoestrogens in soy can inhibit normal development and can cause reproductive and fertility problems later in life. Recent research implicates these phytoestrogens in the development of Alzheimers' and dementia--they are "brain aging;" processing and all modern soy foods contain MSG (monosodium glutamate), which causes neurological problems, including violent behavior.
The justification for more soy is based on the notion that we should reduce the amount of fat in children's diets. Fats contain many nutrients that are vital for normal growth and development, and contribute to the proper function of the brain and nervous system. Growing children need more fat in their diet, not less. To deprive children of the fat they need is criminal. More soy in school lunches will mean more absenteeism, more injuries, more learning problems, more attention deficit disorder and more violence. It will exacerbate nutritional deficiencies and contribute to increased disease. USDA proposals mean increased profit for the powerful soy industry at the expense of our growing children. All soybean producers pay a mandatory assessment of one-half to one per cent of the net market price of soybeans.
The total--something like US $80 million annually--supports United Soybean's program to "strengthen the position of soybeans in the marketplace and maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets for uses for soybeans and soybean products." Private companies like Archer Daniels Midland also contribute their share. ADM spent $4.7 million for advertising on Meet the Press and $4.3 million on Face the Nation during the course of a year. Public relations firms help convert research projects into newspaper articles and advertising copy, and law firms lobby for favorable government regulations. IMF money funds soy processing plants in foreign countries, and free trade policies keep soybean abundance flowing to overseas destinations.
The push for more soy has been relentless and global in its reach. Soy protein is now found in most supermarket breads. It is being used to transform "the humble tortilla, Mexico's corn-based staple food, into a protein-fortified "super-tortilla" that would give a nutritional boost to the nearly 20 million Mexicans who live in extreme poverty." Advertising for a new soy-enriched loaf, from Allied Bakeries in Britain, targets menopausal women seeking relief from hot flushes. Sales are running at a quarter million loaves per week. The soy industry hired Norman Robert Associates, a public relations firm, to "get more soy products onto school menus." The USDA responded with a proposal to scrap the 30 percent limit for soy in school lunches. The NuMenu program would allow unlimited use of soy in student meals. With soy added to hamburgers, tacos and lasagna, dieticians can get the total fat content below 30 percent of calories, thereby conforming to government dictates. Soymilk has posted the biggest gains, soaring from $2 million in 1980 to $300 million in the US in 1999. Processing miracles, good packaging, massive advertising and a marketing strategy that stresses the products' possible health benefits account for increasing sales to all age groups. Soymilk sales are rising in Canada, even though soymilk there costs twice as much as cow's milk. Soybean milk processing plants are sprouting up in places like Kenya. Even China, where soy really is a poverty food and whose people want more meat, not tofu, has opted to build Western-style soy factories rather than develop western grasslands for grazing animals.
Soy's Dark Side
Only a few decades ago, the soybean was considered unfit to eat --even in Asia. During the Chou Dynasty (1134 & 246 BC) the soybean was designated one of the five sacred grains, along with barley, wheat, millet and rice. However, the pictograph for the soybean, which dates from earlier times, indicates that it was not first used as a food; for whereas the pictographs for the other four grains show the seed and stem structure of the plant, the pictograph for the soybean emphasizes the root structure. Agricultural literature of the period speaks frequently of the soybean and its use in crop rotation. Apparently the soy plant was initially used as a method of fixing nitrogen. The soybean did not serve as a food until the discovery of fermentation techniques, some time during the Chou Dynasty.
The first soy foods were fermented products like tempeh, natto, miso and soy sauce. Later, possibly in the 2nd century BC, Chinese scientists discovered that a purée of cooked soybeans could be precipitated with calcium sulphate or magnesium sulphate (plaster of Paris or Epsom salts) to make a smooth, pale curd--tofu or bean curd. The use of fermented and precipitated soy products soon spread to other parts of the Orient, notably Japan and Indonesia. The Chinese did not eat unfermented soybeans as they did other legumes such as lentils because the soybean contains large quantities of natural toxins or "antinutrients." First among them are potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion. These inhibitors are large, tightly folded proteins that are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking. They can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer. Soybeans also contain hemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together.
Trypsin inhibitors and hemagglutinin are growth inhibitors. Weanling rats fed soy containing these antinutrients fail to grow normally.
Growth-depressant compounds are deactivated during the process of fermentation, so once the Chinese discovered how to ferment the soybean, they began to incorporate soy foods into their diets. In precipitated products, enzyme inhibitors concentrate in the soaking liquid rather than in the curd. Thus, in tofu and bean curd, growth depressants are reduced in quantity but not completely eliminated. Soy also contains goitrogens--substances that depress thyroid function. Soybeans are high in phytic acid, present in the bran or hulls of all seeds. It's a substance that can block the uptake of essential minerals--calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and especially zinc--in the intestinal tract. Although not a household word, phytic acid has been extensively studied; there are literally hundreds of articles on the effects of phytic acid in the scientific literature. Scientists are in general agreement that grain- and legume-based diets high in phytates contribute to widespread mineral deficiencies in third world countries.
Analysis shows that calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc are present in the plant foods eaten in these areas, but the high phytate content of soy- and grain-based diets prevents their absorption. The soybean has one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume that has been studied, and the phytates in soy are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking. Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans.
When precipitated soy products like tofu are consumed with meat, the mineral-blocking effects of the phytates are reduced. The Japanese traditionally eat a small amount of tofu or miso as part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a serving of meat or fish.
Vegetarians who consume tofu and bean curd as a substitute for meat and dairy products risk severe mineral deficiencies. The results of calcium, magnesium and iron deficiency are well known; those of zinc are less so. Zinc is called the intelligence mineral because it is needed for optimal development and functioning of the brain and nervous system. It plays a role in protein synthesis and collagen formation; it is involved in the blood-sugar control mechanism and thus protects against diabetes; it is needed for a healthy reproductive system. Zinc is a key component in numerous vital enzymes and plays a role in the immune system. Phytates found in soy products interfere with zinc absorption more completely than with other minerals. Zinc deficiency can cause a "spacey" feeling that some vegetarians may mistake for the "high" of spiritual enlightenment. Milk drinking is given as the reason why second-generation Japanese in America grow taller than their native ancestors. Some investigators postulate that the reduced phytate content of the American diet--whatever other deficiencies--is the true explanation, pointing out that both Asian and Western children who don't get enough animal products to counteract effects of a high phytate diet, frequently suffer rickets, stunting and other growth problems.
The Dangers of Soy Formulas
Since the late 1950's, it has been known that soy formulas contain anti-thyroid agents. Infants on soy formula are particularly vulnerable to developing autoimmune thyroid disease when exposed to high exposure of isoflavones over time. The frequency of feedings with soy-based milk formulas in early life is noticeably higher in children with autoimmune thyroid disease, and thyroid problems are almost triple in those soy formula-fed children compared to their siblings and healthy unrelated children. Fitzpatrick believes that long-term feeding with soy formulas inhibits TPO (thyroid peroxidase) to such an extent that long-term elevated TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) levels can also raise the risk of thyroid cancer.
Not much is being done in the U.S. to make parents aware of the thyroid-relate dangers of soy formulas, or to alert the public that heavy soy consumption may be a danger to thyroid function. Other countries, however, are far ahead of the U.S. In July of 1996, the British Department of Health issued a warning that the phytoestrogens found in soy-based infant formulas could adversely affect infant health. The warning was clear, indicating that soy formula should only be given to babies on the advice of a health professional.
They advised that babies who cannot be breastfed or who have allergies to other formulas should be given alternatives to soy-based formulas. Why more information is not available about these concerns is probably a function of the tremendous strength of the large agricultural companies that dominate America's soy market. At the same time that health experts, and nearly every radio and television health program in the nation touts soy as the miracle health food of the new millennium, the United States pediatric and medical community needs to learn more about this issue, and counsel patients regarding the serious impact the use of soy products can have on thyroid function. A 20/20 investigation found that amid all of praise, some scientists are now challenging this popular wisdom, and suggesting there may be a downside to this "miracle food." "The safety issues are largely unanswered," says Daniel Doerge, a research scientist for the Food and Drug Administration and an expert on soy.
New studies have raised questions over whether the natural ingredients in soy might increase the risk of breast cancer in some women, affect brain function in men and lead to hidden developmental abnormalities in infants. This unresolved scientific debate continues to develop. In October 2000, the FDA issued a health claim, concluding that soy may lower both cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. But two of the FDA's experts on soy--Doerge and his colleague, Daniel Sheehan--stepped forward to criticize their own agency's claim and attempted to stop the recommendation. Their main concern was that the claim could be misinterpreted as an endorsement for soy protein, beyond benefits solely for the heart. Doerge and Sheehan pointed to research that shows a link between soy and fertility problems in certain animals. "The animal data is a clear indication for the potential for adverse effects in humans," Doerge said to 20/20. The core of their concern rests with the chemical make-up of soy: in addition to all the nutrients and protein, there exists a natural chemical that mimics estrogen, the female hormone. Some studies in animals show that this chemical can alter sexual development. And in fact, two glasses of soy milk a day, over the course of a month, contains enough of the chemical to change the timing of a woman's menstrual cycle. "We are doing a large uncontrolled and unmonitored experiment on human infants," Sheehan says. "We're exposing infants to the chemicals in soy infant formula that are known to have adverse effects in experimental, and we have never looked in the human population to see if they have adverse effects."
The infant formula industry, along with some scientists, blasted this criticism of soy, calling it "scientifically unjustified claims that could unduly frighten thousands of parents." Kenneth Setchell, a pediatrics professor at Children's Hospital in Cincinnati and a leading advocate of soy, contends that scientific studies on soy show promise in fighting a number of diseases and that adverse effects seen in animals do not apply to humans. "There have been literally hundreds of thousands of infants that have been raised on soy formulas," Setchell said to 20/20. "Some of those infants would be well into their late 30s, early 40s now. And you know, I don't see evidence of tremendous numbers of cases where there are abnormalities." The debate over soy formula for infants poses a major issue throughout the country. Raw goat milk is an undeniable alternative lifesaver for the 3 to 4 percent of babies who are allergic to or cannot digest cow's milk. The marketing of soy infant formula has led to its much wider use, extending well beyond just those infants who are allergic to 25 percent of the entire formula market. "My careful and considered professional opinion is that it makes more sense not to needlessly expose your baby to these compounds," says Dr. Claude Hughes, director of the Women's Health Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. He adds that while breast-feeding is preferred, mothers who don't breast-feed should use a milk-based formula and choose soy as a last resort.
Other Health Concerns
Aside from his concerns about soy's health effects on infants, Hughes has also raised potentially more serious questions about soy and breast cancer. In some cases, soy is thought to protect against breast cancer. But some studies now indicate, for other women, the chemicals found in soy may enhance a widely found kind of estrogen-feeding breast cancer. "It can speed up divisions of those cells that are already cancer cells that depend on estrogen for their growth," Hughes tells 20/20. Soy--consumed in the form of tofu--may have a connection to accelerated aging in the brain, according to a three decade-long study begun by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Lon White of NIH found greater brain aging and shrinkage among elderly men--all Japanese-American and living in Hawaii--who had eaten tofu at least twice a week during middle age. "Their brains, looking at them in terms of how their brain functions, memory cognition, their brains seemed to be showing an exaggeration of the usual patterns we see in aging," White said. The soy industry countered that White's study only shows an association between tofu consumption and brain aging, does not prove cause and effect and is in conflict with research on Asian populations and animals. While the scientific research on soy is still emerging and is often contradictory, there are now some serious questions raised about this miracle food, and some of its strongest defenders acknowledge that these questions need to be answered.
It seems that there isn't a newspaper, magazine or news program that hasn't recently featured a story on the amazing health benefits of soy food products and soy/isoflavone supplements. Soy is promoted as a healthy alternative to estrogen replacement for some women, as a possibly way to reduce the risk of breast cancer, as a way to minimize menopause symptoms, and as a healthier, low-fat protein alternative for meats and poultry. But what all the positive stories fail to mention is that there is a very real--but very overlooked--downside to the heavy or long-term use of soy products. One UK study of premenopausal women gave 60 grams of soy protein per day for one month. This was found to disrupt the menstrual cycle, with the effects of the isoflavones continuing for a full three months after stopping the soy in the diet. Isoflavones are also known to modify fertility and change sex hormone status. Isoflavones have been shown to have serious health effects--including infertility, thyroid disease or liver disease--on a number of mammals. And this danger is particularly great for infants on soy formula.
This is not information that the U.S. soy industry wants you to know. The sale of soy products is big business, and the increasing demand for soy protein products, soy powders, and soy isoflavone supplements, are making that an even more profitable business than ever before. Researchers have identified isoflavones as potent anti-thyroid agents, and are capable of suppressing thyroid function, and causing or worsening hypothyroidism. Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick, an environmental scientist and phytoestrogen researcher has conducted in-depth studies on soy, particularly the use of soy formulas. Fitzpatrick clear believes that soy products can have a detrimental affect on both adults and infants. In particular, he firmly believes that soy formula manufacturers should remove the isoflavones--that part of the soy products that act as anti-thyroid agents--from their products.
We have all heard about phytoestrogens. Plant compounds that, mimic estrogen, are touted by some as miracle agents that will prevent cancer, coronary heart disease, and osteoporosis (just to name a few). But there is a much darker side to these compounds, which are endocrine disruptors by any other name. Soy is a phytoestrogen, and therefore acts in the body much like a hormone, so it's no surprise that it interacts with the delicate balance of the thyroid's hormonal systems. These compounds may actually increase the risk of breast cancer and cause thyroid disease. Soy formula manufacturers refuse to remove them from their products despite knowing that babies fed soy-formulas risk irreversible damage.
Phytoestrogens And Infants
Don't doubt it--phytoestrogens are bad for your baby. If you are feeding your infant a soy formula our advice is STOP immediately. Why? Soy formula-fed infants receive the same daily dose of phytoestrogens that has been shown to be biologically active in adults! By exposing your baby to such large amounts of phytoestrogens you are risking permanent endocrine system damage to your child. There are alternatives to soy formulas that are both lactose and dairy protein free; use one of those instead of soy.
Phytoestrogens And Infertility
Phytoestrogens can make animals infertile, what about people? There is clear potential for phytoestrogens to reduce male fertility. And if you are a woman trying to conceive you are advised to avoid soy. The food giant Archer Daniels Midland applied to the FDA for Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status to be granted to compounds that are known reproductive toxins! PTI has petitioned the FDA to approve labelling that will promote the consumption of between 25 and 100g per day of soy protein as lowering the risk of coronary heart disease. This amount of soy protein can easily result in megadoses of phytoestrogens; up to 600mg per day! Soy contains several naturally occurring compounds that are toxic to humans and animals.
The soy industry frequently refers to these toxins as anti-nutrients, which implies that they somehow act to prevent the body getting the complete nutrition it needs from a food. The soy toxins (such as phytic acid) can certainly act in this manner, but they also have the ability to target specific organs, cells and enzyme pathways and their effects can be devastating. The soy toxins that Soy Online Service has concerns about are protease inhibitors, phytic acid, soy lectins (or hemagglutins), nitrosamines and the mysterious soytoxin. Nitrosamines are not naturally occurring in soybeans but form during the processing of products such as isolated soy protein (ISP). As with any toxin there will be a dose at which negative effects are not observed. Soy Online Services have examined the scientific data on the soy toxins and have uncovered several alarming truths:
There is no legislation to protect consumers from soy toxins in raw soy products.
With the possible exception of soy lecithin, all soy products, no matter how well treated, contain low to moderate levels of soy toxins; processing cannot remove them all of any of them.
The soy industry has little in the way of quality control to protect consumers from exposure to inadequately treated soy products.
Perhaps the best known of the soy toxins are the protease inhibitors (also referred to as trypsin inhibitors) which, as the name suggests, are able to inhibit the action of proteases (including trypsin) which are enzymes that are involved in the process of dismantling proteins for use by the body. Isoflavones belong to the flavonoid or bioflavonoid family of chemicals, and are considered endocrine disrupters--plants or other products that act as hormones, disrupting the endocrine system, and in some cases, this disruption involves acting as an anti-thyroid agent. (The grain millet, for example, contains high levels of flavonoids, and is commonly known as problematic for thyroid function). Flavonoids inhibit thyroid peroxidase (TPO), which disturbs proper thyroid function. The March 1999 issue of Natural Health magazine has a feature on soy that quotes Daniel R. Doerge, Ph.D., a researcher at the Food and Drug Administration's National Center for Toxicological Research. Dr. Doerge has researched soy's anti-thyroid properties, and has said "...I see substantial risks from taking soy supplements or eating huge amounts of soy foods for their putative disease preventive value. There is definitely potential for interaction with the thyroid." Dr. Fitzpatrick believes that people with hypothyroidism should avoid soy products, because, "any inhibition of TPO will clearly work against anyone trying to correct an hypothyroid state." In addition, he believes that the current promotion of soy as a health food will result in an increase in thyroid disorders.
How Much is Safe?
According to the Soy Online Service, for infants, any soy is too much. For adults, just 30 mg of soy isoflavones per day is the amount found to have a negative impact on thyroid function. This amount of soy isoflavones is found in just 5-8 ounces of soymilk, or 1.5 ounces of miso. The USDA launched a website that is promoting the health benefits of the use of soy foods. The site lists the isoflavone content of a total of 128 foods, including foods such as vegetarian hot dogs soybeans, chickpeas and tofu. This might help you in deciding how much soy to include in your diet.
Soy Protein Isolate
Soy processors have worked hard to get these antinutrients out of the finished product, particularly soy protein isolate (SPI) which is the key ingredient in most imitation meat and dairy products, including baby formulas and some brands of soy milk. SPI is not something you can make in your own kitchen. It is produced in industrial factories where a slurry of soy beans is first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution. Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The curds are spray- dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP). Much of the trypsin inhibitors can be removed through high-temperature processing, but not all. Trypsin inhibitor content of soy protein isolate can vary as much as fivefold (In rats, even low-level trypsin inhibitor SPI feeding results in reduced weight gain compared to controls). But high-temperature processing has the unfortunate side-effect of so denaturing the other proteins in soy that they are rendered largely ineffective. That's why animals on soy feed need lysine supplements for normal growth.
Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray drying, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is formed during alkaline processing. Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong "beany" taste and to impart the flavor of meat. The use of SPI increases requirements for vitamins E, K, D and B12 and creates deficiency symptoms of calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid remaining in these soy products greatly inhibits zinc and iron absorption; test animals fed SPI develop enlarged organs, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland, and increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver. Yet soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein are used extensively in school lunch programs, commercial baked goods, diet beverages and fast food products. They are heavily promoted in third world countries and form the basis of many food giveaway programs. In spite of poor results in animal feeding trials, the soy industry has sponsored a number of studies designed to show that soy protein products can be used in human diets as a replacement for traditional foods.
Soy And Cancer
The new FDA ruling does not allow any claims about cancer prevention on food packages, but that has not restrained the industry and its marketers from making them in their promotional literature. "In addition to protecting the heart," says a vitamin company brochure, "soy has demonstrated powerful anticancer benefits...the Japanese, who eat 30 times as much soy as North Americans, and have a lower incidence of cancers of the breast, uterus and prostate." Indeed they do. But the Japanese, and Asians in general, have much higher rates of other types of cancer, particularly cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas and liver. Asians throughout the world also have high rates of thyroid cancer. The logic that links low rates of reproductive cancers to soy consumption requires attribution of high rates of thyroid and digestive cancers to the same foods, particularly as soy causes these types of cancers in laboratory rats. Just how much soy do Asians eat? A 1998 survey found that the average daily amount of soy protein consumed in Japan was about eight grams for men and seven for women--less than two teaspoons.
The famous Cornell China Study, conducted by Colin T. Campbell, found that legume consumption in China varied from 0 to 58 grams per day, with a mean of about twelve.
Assuming that two-thirds of legume consumption is soy, then the maximum consumption is about 40 grams, or less than three tablespoons per day, with an average consumption of about nine grams, or less than two teaspoons. A survey conducted in the 1930s found that soy foods accounted for only 1.5 per cent of calories in the Chinese diet, compared with 65 per cent of calories from pork. (Asians traditionally cooked with lard, not vegetable oil!) Traditionally fermented soy products make a delicious, natural seasoning that may supply important nutritional factors in the Asian diet. But except in times of famine, Asians consume soy products only in small amounts, as condiments, and not as a replacement for animal foods--with one exception. Celibate monks living in monasteries and leading a vegetarian lifestyle find soy foods quite helpful because they dampen libido.
Thousands of women are now consuming soy in the belief that it protects them against breast cancer. Yet, in 1996, researchers found that women consuming soy protein isolate had an increased incidence of epithelial hyperplasia, a condition that presages malignancies. A year later, dietary genistein was found to stimulate breast cells to enter the cell cycle--a discovery that led the authors to conclude that women shouldn't consume soy to prevent breast cancer. Twenty-five grams of soy protein isolate contains from 50 to 70 mg of isoflavones. It takes only 45 mg of isoflavones in premenopausal women to exert significant biological effects, including a reduction in hormones needed for adequate thyroid function. These effects lingered for three months after soy consumption was discontinued. One hundred grams of soy protein can contain almost 600 mg of isoflavones, an amount that is toxic. In 1992, the Swiss health service estimated that 100 grams of soy protein provides the estrogenic equivalent of the Pill.
Studies suggest that isoflavones inhibit synthesis of estradiol and other steroid hormones. Reproductive problems, infertility, thyroid disease and liver disease due to dietary intake of isoflavones have been observed for several species of animals including mice, cheetah, quail, pigs, rats, sturgeon and sheep. It is the isoflavones in soy that are said to have a favorable effect on postmenopausal symptoms, including hot flushes, and protection from osteoporosis. The degree of discomfort from hot flushes is extremely subjective, and most studies show that control subjects report reduction in discomfort in amounts equal to subjects given soy. The claim that soy prevents osteoporosis is extraordinary, given that soy foods block calcium and cause vitamin D deficiencies. If Asians indeed have lower rates of osteoporosis than Westerners, it is because their diet provides plenty of vitamin D from shrimp, lard and seafood, and plenty of calcium from bone broths. The reason that Westerners have such high rates of osteoporosis is because they have substituted soy oil for butter, which is a traditional source of vitamin D and other fat-soluble activators needed for calcium absorption.
Birth Control Pills For Babies
But it was the isoflavones in infant formula that gave the James's the most cause for concern. In 1998, investigators reported that the daily exposure of infants to isoflavones in soy infant formula is 6 to11 times higher on a body-weight basis than the dose that has hormonal effects in adults consuming soy foods. Circulating concentrations of isoflavones in infants fed soy-based formula were 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than plasma estradiol concentrations in infants on cow's milk formula. Approximately 25 per cent of bottle-fed children in the US receive soy-based formula--a much higher percentage than in other parts of the Western world. Fitzpatrick estimated that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phytoestrogens have been detected in dairy-based infant formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. Scientists have known for years that soy-based formula can cause thyroid problems in babies. But what are the effects of soy products on the hormonal development of the infant, both male and female?
Male infants undergo a "testosterone surge" during the first few months of life, when testosterone levels may be as high as those of an adult male. During this period, the infant is programmed to express male characteristics after puberty, not only in the development of his sexual organs and other masculine physical traits, but also in setting patterns in the brain characteristic of male behavior. In monkeys, deficiency of male hormones impairs the development of spatial perception (which, in humans, is normally more acute in men than in women), of learning ability and of visual discrimination tasks (such as would be required for reading). It goes without saying that future patterns of sexual orientation may also be influenced by the early hormonal environment. Male children exposed during gestation to diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen that has effects on animals similar to those of phytoestrogens from soy, had testes smaller than normal on maturation.
Learning disabilities, especially in male children, have reached epidemic proportions. Soy infant feeding - which began in earnest in the early 1970s - cannot be ignored as a probable cause for these tragic developments. As for girls, an alarming number are entering puberty much earlier than normal, according to a recent study reported in the journal Pediatrics. Investigators found that one per cent of all girls now show signs of puberty, such as breast development or pubic hair, before the age of three; by age eight, 14.7 per cent of white girls and almost 50 per cent of African-American girls have one or both of these characteristics.
Lurking in the background of industry hype for soy is the nagging question of whether it's even legal to add soy protein isolate to food. All food additives not in common use prior to 1958, including casein protein from milk, must have GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe) status. In 1972, the Nixon administration directed a re-examination of substances believed to be GRAS, in the light of any scientific information then available. This re-examination included casein protein, which became codified as GRAS in 1978. In 1974, the FDA obtained a literature review of soy protein because, as soy protein had not been used in food until 1959 and was not even in common use in the early 1970s, it was not eligible to have its GRAS status grandfathered under the provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The scientific literature up to 1974 recognized many antinutrients in factory-made soy protein, including trypsin inhibitors, phytic acid and genistein. But the FDA literature review dismissed discussion of adverse impacts, with the statement that it was important for "adequate processing" to remove them. Genistein could be removed with an alcohol wash, but it was an expensive procedure that processors avoided. Later studies determined that trypsin inhibitor content could be removed only with long periods of heat and pressure, but the FDA has imposed no requirements for manufacturers to do so. The FDA was more concerned with toxins formed during processing, specifically nitrites and lysinoalanine. Even at low levels of consumption--averaging one-third of a gram per day at the time--the presence of these carcinogens was considered too great a threat to public health to allow GRAS status.\
Soy protein did have approval for use as a binder in cardboard boxes, and this approval was allowed to continue, as researchers considered that migration of nitrites from the box into the food contents would be too small to constitute a cancer risk. FDA officials called for safety specifications and monitoring procedures before granting of GRAS status for food. These were never performed. To this day, use of soy protein is codified as GRAS only for this limited industrial use as a cardboard binder. This means that soy must be subject to pre-market approval procedures each time manufacturers intend to use it as a food or add it to a food. Soy protein was introduced into infant formula in the early 1960s. It was a new product with no history of any use at all. As soy protein did not have GRAS status, premarket approval was required. This was not and still has not been granted. The key ingredient of soy infant formula is not recognized as safe.
If you found this article interesting you may want to read:
Electrical Nutrition by Denie and Shelley Hiestand published by Avery, 2001.