Nutrition Blog

November, 20 2009

The Soy Conspiracy!

Oh, how I love a good conspiracy!  And the soy conspiracy is definitely a great one!

I find in my career as a personal trainer that there are two basic types of people that regularly consume soy products:  vegetarians/vegans, and everyone else.  Vegetarians and vegans may consume soy products because they need additional protein in their diets – 9 times out of 10, soy is the default supplement.  And as for everyone else, you guys are usually consuming soy as an arbitrary preference and not as a protein necessity.

Regardless of your needs or preferences, you should seriously reconsider consuming soy.  There is a significant probability that we have all been tragically deceived by the extravagant false advertisement of the soy industry.  There are a plethora of objective assays on the deleterious health effects from soy consumption, but a large scale cash-crop motive inspires an elaborate and consistent cover up; so notorious and malicious as to be called the “Soy Conspiracy.”

If you are new to the “Soy Conspiracy” concept – as many people are calling it – please read on before writing this off as rubbish.  If you don’t like what I have to say, then at least this article will provide a basis for your debate.

The Dangers of Soy

The problems with soy are abundant and unfortunately, fundamental.  Organically grown, naturally occurring soy and derived soy products contain: trypsin inhibitors, phytoestrogens, goitrogens, phytates, and hemagglutinin.  These potentially harmful chemical compounds – as I have stated – are naturally occurring and a fundamental component of the soy plant. However, fermenting soy – a safe and common process used for centuries – deactivates many of these potentially caustic compounds.  Examples of fermented soy products are tempeh, miso, natto, and soy/tamari sauce. 

There is an abundance of literature that investigates and discloses – what I believe to be – the truth about the soy plant, its history as a cultivated crop, and its traditional use as a fermented food substance.  I will provide links at the bottom of this page for further reading, but the focus of this post will be a brief outline of the hidden dangers of soy.

Trypsin Inhibitors

The soy industry has done a fantastic job of marketing soy as a “a complete, high protein super-food“.  To our demise, this is complete bunk.  Soy may contain nearly a full array of amino acids, but it is lacking in cysteine and methionine; close, but not cigar.  Complete protein or not, it doesn’t even matter.  Why, you may ask?  Because unfermented soy products are full of naturally occurring trypsin inhibitors!

Trypsin inhibitors are chemical compounds that – as the name implies – inhibit the function of trypsin.  Trypsin is an essential enzyme that is released from the pancreas and is responsible for digesting proteins in the small intestine.  Once consumed, they can produce chronic amino acid uptake deficiency and associated gastric distress symptoms.

Think about this for a second… if soy proteins contain trypsin inhibitors, and trypsin inhibitors interfere with protein digestion/metabolism, doesn’t that contradict soy’s incessantly proclaimed high protein benefits?  High temperature processing methods and cooking can partially deactivate these trypsin inhibitors, however, fermenting soy is much more effective.

Phytoestrogens

The phytoestrogen content of soy and soy products probably accounts for the majority of the ‘raised eyebrows.’  Many of you are aware that soy has naturally occurring bio-active phytoestrogens, that – when ingested – mimic estrogen hormones within the body, regardless of age or gender.  What you may not know is their extensive deleterious effects.  The phytoestrogens consumed by unfermented soy alone can produce an excess of circulating estrogen. This poses a significant problem as excess estrogen/phytoestrogen can be linked to:

-Various cancers, such as: breast cancer, uterine cancer, prostate cancer, and brain cancer (men and women, respectively).

-Hypothyroidism and associated symptoms: loss of energy, lethargy, depression, hair loss, and fat accumulation (men and women).

-Gynecomastia (the development of breasts in men).

-Testosterone deficiency, headaches, lowered sex drive, infertility, and heart disease (men and women).

-Irregular bleeding/heavy menstruation, increased cramping, water retention, infertility, and “estrogen dominance” (women).

-Hypogonadism: Delayed and/or stunted puberty resulting in underdeveloped sexual organs and possibly hypospadias (boys).

-Premature onset and accelerated of puberty with possible future reproductive problems (girls).

Note: the hypothyroidism listed above is a consequence of the goitrogenic effect of isoflavones (the more ‘user friendly’r term for phytoestrogens).  Goitrogens are naturally occurring chemical compounds found in various foods.  When ingested, they disrupt thyroid function by blocking iodine uptake/metabolism within the thyroid gland.

I am sure the list goes on, but you get the idea.  And worst yet, the soy industry is claiming that many of the health benefits of soy are attributed to their isoflavones.  Cancer causing or not, their incessant claim that soy products can reduce cancer has NOT been clinically proven.

Phytic Acid

It is important to remember that plants are living things, and in order for plants to survive, they too need to reproduce.  Many plants contain a chemical called phytic acid within their seeds/legumes, which serves the function of storing phosphorus and delaying germination (growth) until the environment is conducive towards growth (warmth, moisture, etc.).  Coincidentally, or perhaps an evolutionary protective mechanism, phytic acid is poisonous when consumed; it inhibits mineral absorption in the small intestine.  Although phytic acid does possess antioxidant properties, it is generally considered an anti-nutrient due to its affinity for blocking the absorption of minerals: calcium, magnesium, iron and especially zinc.  Mineral deficiencies can cause a grip of various negative health affects, including: hair loss, anorexia, diarrhea, acne, impaired memory, taste, and smell; fatigue, weakness, impaired immune function, irritability, asthma, ADD, fibromayalgia, muscle spasms, migranes, diabetes, osteoporosis, etc.

As you probably have already guessed, soy beans have the highest phytic acid content of all of the legumes that have currently been studied.  Often times, soy products with be enriched with additional minerals, but thats like putting a band aid on missing limb.  Fermenting soy tends reduce the phytic acid content, but the extent is currently unknown.

Hemagglutinin

Lastly, soy contains moderate levels of a particular protein called hemagglutinin.  When ingested, hemagglutin causes red blood cells to clot together and reduces their ability to effectively bind with and carry oxygen to all of the cells of the body.  Interestingly, viruses also have this particular protein structure and function, which has been considered one of the most virulent aspects of the flu.

Aside from inhibiting oxygen delivery via blood clots, I am uncertain as to whether soy gemagglutinin actually suppresses the immune system comparable to that of the flu.  Regardless, fermentation – yet again – seems to remedy this problem.

The Conspiracy

The egregious chasm between health promotion and health commotion is the driving force of the highly probable soy conspiracy.

Since the industrial revolution, soy protein has been a waste product from the extraction of soy oil.  Soy oil has been used for decades as “vegetable oil”, “margerine”, “shortening”, etc., while the soy protein waste was predominantly used as feed for live stock.

Up until 1975, the leftover soy protein was predominantly used as feed for live stock. However, a cap was placed on animal intake as only so much soy protein could be tolerated until animals started experiencing serious health and reproductive problems.  And so began the target for human consumption.  Yet, unfortunate for soy manufacturers, soy protein had a stigma for being a “poverty” or – at best – “hippie” food.

This all changed in 1975 when a marketing guru of the United Soybean Board developed a comprehensive – false – promotion of soy products as an ‘upscale health food.’  The United Soybean Board aggressively lobbied in Washington and invested millions in self interest “medical research”.  Then in May, 1998, with the joint effort of the Dupont’s Protein Technologies International, petitions were submitted to the FDA to condone various health claims with inconsistent or non-existent scientific research.

According to FDA’s mission statement, the petition should have been denied on the basis of an apparent lack of scientific data.  But the FDA – presumably under the influence of lobbyist campaign funds – violated its own regulations, edited the petition and and sped up the executive process by reducing the time in which members of the public could protest (from ____ to 30 days).  The FDA knowingly disregarded the protest of top scientists at the FDA’s own National Center of Toxicological Research (and from other experts in the field) on the evident dangers of soy.

Soon after, health claims of lowering cholesterol, decreasing heart disease, lowering risk of specific cancers, improving osteoporosis, etc., began to emerge as intrinsic benefits from the consumption of soy.  Almost audaciously, specific health claims were often attributed to the isoflavones (phytoestrogens).

How is this possible? It’s big business as usual.  “Soy foods are one of the fastest growing sectors in the food industry with retail sales growing from $0.852 billion to $3.2 billion during the decade from 1992 to 2002.  In order to accomplish this, the soy industry had to convince a lot of people that soy is good for them.  To do that they’ve had to cover up and suppress a lot of evidence to the contrary”, says Dr. Daniel, author of the book The Whole Soy Story.

Soy is quite possibly a huge cash crop, and this becomes even harder to dispute when you consider it’s “hidden ingredient” application.  As a hidden ingredient, soy can have aliases (“vegetable oil”, “textured vegetable protein”, etc.), or be simply undeclared (not listed on the label).  Functionally, added soy can improve texture, enhance flavor, emulsify fats/oils, etc., and is reported to be found within 60% of conventional foods.

What to Do:

My suggestion to you is this: stay away from soy! Its absolute avoidance is not necessary (and nearly impossible), yet a upper limit intake of 36 grams of soy protein per day is advised. However, if you are allergic to soy, you must practice great caution in discerning which foods/products have trace amounts of soy.  Soy is considered to be among the top 4 common allergens, and the least bit can cause severe adverse reactions in those that are sensitive.

As a Good Samaritan bonus, share this information with your friends and family to help them improve the health of themselves and especially their children.  When I go to the grocery store and see a mother/father buying soy milk for their children, I take the time and consideration to explain the dangers of soy consumption, offer references for their own research, and say “you’re welcome”, because they almost always say “Thank you so much!  I had no idea…”

References and Links

Effects of Soy on Health Outcomes

Beware of the Toxicity of Soy Products

Good Soy is No Soy

1979:  FDA’s Approval of Soy Protein Isolate

The Soy Conspiracy

Estrogen Dominance

Dangers of Excess Estrogen in Men

Sans Soy!


8 Responses to “The Soy Conspiracy!”

  1. Dianne Gregg says:

    Thanks for this great article on soy. I love it when I see others agree with me.

    You may want to suggest that your subscribers check out my book,The Hidden Dangers of Soy.

    After developing a severe allergy to soy that nearly killed her, Dianne Gregg learned the truth behind this supposed health food. “The Hidden Dangers of Soy” is the culmination of her efforts to educate others on the issues in hopes more will avoid soy’s underreported—yet widely researched—negative health impacts. She has appeared on numerous radio shows and seen on CBS4 (Miami). http://www.hiddensoy.com

    Listen to Dianne on the radio Tuesdays, 4pm – 5pm EST where she interviews experts and authors in the health and wellness industry.
    http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Health-Watch-Radio

  2. I wouldn’t cut soy completely out of your diet. It can still be beneficial to your over all protein consumption.
    Dianne is great on the Radio!

  3. Amie A. says:

    My mother had a hysterectomy about 5 years back. Her doctor recommends that she drink soy milk every day for the estrogen effect essentially. Have you heard of this? Do you think she should stop? It seems like the harmful effects may outweigh any benefits. Would greatly appreciate a response, thanks!

  4. mrmikeymills says:

    Hey Amie!

    Estrogen balance is critical for optimal health and well being. If your mother is deficient, she may benefit from taking soy-isoflavones vs. soy milk, which may reduce the ingestion of other deleterious substances (trypsin inhibitors).

    Ultimately, the efficacy of her treatment will be reflected in her results. If there is an improvement in cognitive or physical health, then that would be a good sign that supplementing with soy-isoflavones is beneficial.

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