The Trouble With Soy  
by M
advantages of soy have been well-documented. Now there is cause for concern, as
subsequent studies have either failed to substantiate these claims or have reported
contradictory findings. Furthermore, some researchers have even proven that many
soy products contain harmful microorganisms and other substances that can actually
have a negative effect upon health.

Many Soy Foods Heavily Processed
Many consumers believe soy-based food products are more natural and healthier
than other foods. Yet most of the soybeans used in today's popular products are
genetically modified. These modifications, used during the growing process, introduce
unknown and unpredictable substances into the food supply. Even more alarming is
the widespread use of these genetically modified organisms (GMO). Unless a
product's package specifically denotes otherwise, it is safe to assume that all soy
products are made from GMO.

Several popular soy products are also heavily processed, and many even more so
than traditional "unhealthy foods" such as hot dogs or lunch meat. Plain tofu
packaging often reveals at least one or two artificial preservatives; soy cooking oil,
soy mayonnaise, soy burgers, and soy dairy products like ice cream and cheese
usually contain many more of these artificial additives and preservatives. Soy meat
substitutes often contain MSG, a chemical that has been shown to contribute to
headaches, weight gain, degenerative diseases, and hormone imbalances. Clearly,
choosing soy products for their superior nutritional value is not always the healthy
choice.

Soy Impacts Human Hormones
Soy has long been offered as an alternative therapy for women suffering the
symptoms of menopause. Many women do very well on a diet rich in products made
from soy and report fewer hot flashes, less emotional instability, and improved
overall comfort. Yet other menopausal women seem to react to soy in a different
way, and for some increasing soy intake can be seriously detrimental.

Soy contains a natural substance called phytoestrogen, which mimics human
hormones such as estrogen. Once these substances enter the body they trigger
hormone receptors but do not act in the same manner as natural estrogen.
Phytoestrogen blocks true estrogen from accessing the receptors and estrogen
levels decline significantly as a result. In men, these phytoestrogens trigger the same
response, but since men have far less estrogen in their bodies, conversely a man
who eats excessive amounts of soy may seem to have too much estrogen. These
anomalies can confuse the body and throw hormones extremely off balance.

Soy Impacts Fertility
Most research on the effects of soy has been performed on animal test subjects, but
two recent studies have now shown that the same results can likely be expected in
human subjects. A team of scientists at Harvard University reports that when men
consume food containing soy their sperm concentration is measurably lower than
men who did not consume the soy. The men who ate the most soy had the lowest
sperm counts, lower than more than 40 million sperm per milliliter over the control
group. This suggests that consuming too much soy could raise infertility rates in men.

Female reproductive health is also impacted, as British researchers learned. Their
study focused on pre-menopausal women who were given 60 grams of soy-based
protein daily for one month. The soy was found to cause disruption in the
participants' menstrual cycle, and the effects lasted for three more months after the
high soy intake ceased.

Soy Impacts Heart Disease
A 1995 study found that eating 50 grams of soy protein daily could reduce
cholesterol and risk of heart disease. A recent update of this research, however,
determined that consuming 50 grams of soy only lowers risk by three percent.
Moreover, 50 grams of soy protein is the equivalent of eating one and one half
pounds of tofu or drinking eight full glasses of soy milk every day.

Soy Impacts Cancer
Some recent reports have contradicted earlier research that suggested that soy
protein blocks the action of cancer cells in the breast. These new studies found that
applying concentrated soy protein supplements to cancer cells may actually stimulate
the growth of breast cancer. There are now more studies underway examining this
issue.

Soy Impacts Mental Capacity
A handful of studies have suggested that consuming soy could improve mental
capacity and help prevent age-related mental deterioration. New research is divided
on this issue. Some scientists have found that soy does help with mental clarity,
while others have concluded that too much soy can cause problems.
In one study it was found that elderly Japanese women living in Hawaii who ate a
traditional Asian diet rich in soy protein were more likely to develop cognitive issues
than their neighbors who embraced a more Western diet.

Soy Impacts Children's Health
Soy-based infant formula has been in the US consumer market since the 1950s.
Many studies have established that prolonged consumption of soy formula may lead
to an increased risk of serious autoimmune thyroid conditions in young children.

Researchers at Cornell University found that children who were fed soy-based
formula in infancy were three times more likely to develop a thyroid disorder than
even their siblings or other children who were not given soy formula. The risk also
extended into adulthood, where it was suggested that these children would be ideal
candidates for thyroid cancer. Infants who are fed soy-based formula are also more
likely develop soy allergies later in life. Because soy products contain a substance
that acts as estrogen in the body, there is also a chance that children who consume
soy products are liable to experience early onset puberty and increased risk of
leukemia.

In Conclusion
The evidence present here is certainly not cause enough to completely discount the
benefits of soy protein. However, one must read labels carefully and look for
products that are all-natural, free from artificial chemicals, and specifically marked as
non-GMO. Avoid overly processed soy products and consume soy protein in
moderation.


About The Author

Abdullah Salim

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For years, soy protein has been
touted as a healthier alternative to
animal-based proteins such as those
found in red meat, poultry, and dairy
products. However, there is new
evidence to suggest that those early
praises of the benefits of soy may
have been premature or based on
shaky science.

The Promise
Soy products have long been credited
with a variety of health benefits.
From lowering cholesterol to calming
hot flashes to preventing cancer to
stimulating weight loss, the
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