Nutrition Lie #3 – Soy is a Good Health Food
Soy is one of the highest plant sources of protein but that's about all it's got going for it, especially in its unfermented form.
Because soy is such a high source of protein (at 35% of the raw bean), it has made the global factory farming of livestock for cheap meat a possibility. It is now an everyday staple agricultural feeds for intensive chicken, beef, dairy, pig and fish farming. And soy increases the protein content of processed meat products.
In the last 50 years, soy has become the food industry's "go-to" filler for any and all food products.
It isn't only used for meat production but due to its 18% concentration of omega-6 fatty acids, it has also been heavily used in the processing of snack foods. According to records held by the Chicago Board of Trade, in 1965 global soybean production was just 30m tons. By 2005, the world was consuming nine times that a year, at 270m tons.
Likewise, world soy oil production, meanwhile, has increased sevenfold over the same period, from 5m tons to 34m tons a year. And to feed the growing demand for soy in food, new agricultural frontiers continue to be opened up in Brazil, where massive areas of virgin rainforest have been illegally felled to make room for the crop.
In fact, research has shown that since 1990, soy production, exports, and the related destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has increased 14.1% per year, and with no end in sight.
The graph below illustrates this point:
The financial allure of the all-mighty soybean has caught the eye of, and is now dominated by, an oligopoly of American trading companies. Three of them - Bunge, ADM and Cargill - control 80% of the soy and animal feed markets. Coincidence? I think not!
These companies are severely corrupt and have probably done more damage to our food supply than anything or anybody else! Just one more reason to stay away from packaged and processed foods!
Now you might be saying…“Ok, that’s nice but why is all this soy unhealthy for me?”
Well that’s a great question. I’m happy you asked. Let’s start with how soy can affect our young ones…
Many toxicologists believe that babies fed exclusively on soy formula could receive the estrogenic equivalent, based on body weight, of five birth control pills a day! Can you imagine that?! Feeding our children (and ourselves) regular processed soy is like injecting high doses of estrogen directly into the body. The effects can be catastrophic! Many food companies, however, argue that soy infant formulas have been widely used without problems, claiming that most of the research has been done on animals. Well, if birds and other animals are getting sick and dying early as a result of soy feeding, then that certainly raises some flags for me! How about you?
Here's a scary statistic...
30-40% of all infants in the US are raised on soy formula!!! I certainly hope that with better education (from reports like these, doctors, nurses, etc...) that number can dramatically be reduced.
It has been known since the early 1980s that plant estrogens, or phytoestrogens, could produce biological effects in humans. The most common of these were a group of compounds in soy protein called isoflavones. Because of their intriguing early effects, food manufacturers began marketing soy foods (and their isoflavones) as an antidote to menopausal hot flashes and osteoporosis, and as a protective ingredient against cardiovascular disease and hormone-related cancers. As with the nonsense propagated by the milk industry, large quantities of mainly industry sponsored scientific research have been produced to back up these “beneficial” soy claims.
According to the Guardian, the American soy industry spends about $80m every year (thanks to a mandatory levy on producers) to research and promote the consumption of soy around the world.
Where Did All The Health Claims Associated With Soy Originate?
Well, the hypothesis behind the health claims is that rates of heart disease and certain cancers such as breast and prostate cancer are lower in East Asian populations, which conveniently have soy-rich diets, than in western countries. Obviously, this correlation was good enough for interested parties to start making “cause and effect” associations between soy’s phytoestrogens and good health.
Again, another example of implied causation.
But here’s the reality…
East Asian countries tend to eat moderate amounts of soy in its healthier fermented state (ie. miso, tempeh, etc…). You don’t see them eating soy burgers and “tofurky” – at least not yet! By contrast, Americans and most westerners (especially those who follow a vegan diet) are eating massive quantities of heavily fabricated soy “products” (not food). Mass exposure to isoflavones in the west has only occurred in the past 30 years due to the widespread incorporation of soy protein into processed foods, a fact noted by the Royal Society in its expert report on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals in 2000.
Not surprisingly, when the independent experts on the scientific committee on toxicity searched through all the scientific data, they concluded that soy milk should NOT be recommended for infants even when they had cow's milk allergies, except on medical advice, because of the high levels of estrogenic isoflavones it contains.
Another interesting thing to note is that HOW soy is processed affects its levels of phytoestrogens. Traditional fermentation reduces the levels of isoflavones two- to threefold (a good thing), whereas modern factory processes do not. In addition, modern American strains of soy have significantly higher levels of isoflavones than Japanese or Chinese ones because they have been bred to be more resistant to pests – thank you seed conglomerates (Cargill, Monsanto, etc…).
What the research says about soy’s supposed health benefits…
Instead of quoting study upon study, I’ll make your life easier by presenting a synopsis of findings in the current literature. On breast cancer, most experts agree that despite the suggested benefits of phytoestrogens in lowering risk of developing breast cancer, there is also evidence that they may stimulate the progression of the disease. This could be due to the fact that since estrogen promotes cell division/growth it is also a stimulating factor in the spread of many types of cancer.
Does soy help with menopausal symptoms? Well, the evidence is inconclusive. However, I still don’t recommend menopausal women (let alone anyone else) consume processed soy. I think we’ve seen why.
What about soy in men and prostate cancer? Again, here the evidence on prostate cancer has been mixed. However, professor Richard Sharpe, head of the Medical Research Council's human reproductive sciences unit at Edinburgh University, has spent years studying phytoestrogens in food and its relation to male fertility. Recently, he completed studies on the effects of soy milk on young male monkeys which showed that it interferes with testosterone levels. Researchers are also speculating that the high levels of phytoestrogens and xenoestrogens (fake estrogens from plastics, pills, and other sources) in our food and water supply are negatively affecting testosterone levels in men while increasing the estrogen load, especially in women.
Essentially, the BIG problem with soy boils down to the fact that it is a very powerful source of phytoestrogens, which elevate the estrogen levels in your body, wreaking havoc on normal hormonal balance. This is a big problem nowadays as we are seeing more and more people develop "estrogen dominance" related problems like endometriosis, ovarian cysts, accelerated cell division/growth, and general weight gain - just to name a few.
And for those finding it tough to lose that extra little tummy bulge, it could very well be an estrogen issue related to excess soy intake. This is obviously a wild guess on my end but if you are currently consuming a lot of soy, then you are hurting your ability to lose belly (and overall) fat.
The bigger issue with soy is that it is now in more than 60% of all processed foods available in the western world.
It is in breakfast cereals, cereal bars and biscuits, cheeses, cakes, dairy desserts, gravies, noodles, pastries, soups, sausage casings, sauces and sandwich spreads. You name it – soy is probably in it. Unless of course we’re talking about fresh produce.
So Why Is This A Concern?
In order to understand this properly, you first need to realize that ANY food we consume too frequently OR which sits in our digestive tract for too long can trigger eventual intolerances within the body. That’s the big reason why soy has quickly climbed the ranks of the most allergenic foods. It’s now right up there with wheat, dairy, corn, and peanuts. These are also foods to which we are overly exposed.
Does that make sense?
The other serious issue with soy is that it suppresses thyroid function. Its "goitrogenic" properties reduce impair thyroid function (by competing for thyroid hormone receptors). And since the thyroid is the control gland for your metabolism, I’m sure you can see why having lower thyroid function will severely impair your ability to lose weight and keep it off, especially as you age.
Wow. That was a pretty crazy whirlwind look at the numerous detrimental effects of soy. I hope you now see why it’s a traditional “health” food that I NEVER want you to eat again in any considerable amount!