Today’s consumer is bombarded with tales of soy’s miraculous health benefits from cancer prevention to relief of menopausal symptoms. There is however a growing faction of anti-soy advocates that claim there is a danger of soy consumption. Naturally occurring compounds of the soy bean known as phytoestrogens can have the potential for both positive and negative health benefits. This article will focus on the danger of soy and how to consume soy safely.
The Good, The Bad…and The Ugly of Soy:
The danger of soy centers on a class of chemical compounds contained in the soybean. These compounds are known as phytoestrogens or isoflavones and seem to mimic the female sex hormone, estrogen.
Hormones are a class of compounds that have profound effects in the human body and that if present in too little or too much of an amount is deleterious to health. Therefore, one should always be cautious when taking a hormone or something that affects it.
The fact that these soy compounds mimic a female sex hormone should be an immediate red flag to men. Men’s Health magazine recently carried a horror story of a man who was consuming large quantities of soy milk due to lactose intolerance issues. This individual developed female breasts, loss of libido and emotional instability. These problems resolved themselves following the removal of soy from his diet.
The reader should keep in mind that this is just one report. However, it took some detective work on the part of his personal physician to determine that soy was the culprit. So there may be others out there that are unaware that soy is causing their health problems.
On the other side of the coin, it is this very same property of estrogen mimicking that is speculated to have positive health benefits. It has been known that Asian men who typically consume unprocessed soybeans and fermented soy foods like tofu and miso have lower prostate cancer rates than their non Asian low soy consuming counterparts.
This also applies to Asian women and estrogen related diseases, like breast cancer and menopausal related disorders, being lower in this soy consuming culture.
Too Much of A Good Thing:
When consumed in small amounts the phytoestrogens in soy can have positive health benefits but when concentrated in supplements and in soy enriched foods the danger of soy can become manifest.
While moderate soy consumption seems to be preventive in breast cancer there are implications that once breast cancer forms the phtyoestrogens encourage its further growth.
There is quite a bit of information on the Internet that suggests that excessive soy consumption can lead to hypothyroidism and goiter. This condition would lead to fatigue and excessive weight gain to name a few symptoms.
Now the ugly. There is research that indicates that excessive soy consumption can lead to brain shrinkage and Alzheimer’s!
However, a recent study suggests that an enzyme in fermented soy products called nattokinase can prevent Alzheimer’s. This supplement is available from Swanson Health Products.
Moderation, moderation, moderation…
Reputable nutritionists and researchers with no tie to “Big Soy” are recommending consumers stay away from supplemental soy extracts and soy isoflavone enhanced foods and soy protein isolates to avoid the danger of soy.
Limit your consumption of soy foods to unprocessed non-genetically-modified (non GMO) soy nuts and fermented soy foods like miso and natto and to several servings per week.