The Billion-Dollar Myth

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Here's another interesting article from my ongoing research;

The Billion-Dollar Myth
How did soy get its reputation as a cure-all for modern ailments? Follow the money . . .

Nina Planck
Monday, May 19, 2003

HEALTH CLAIMS for soy are remarkable: preventing or curing hot flashes, breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. They are also dubious. Still more alarming, the advice to eat soy three times a day is potentially dangerous for men, women, children, and babies alike. Soy poses real health risks, including sterility, cancer, and stunted development. Yet few journalists have seriously examined the extraordinary claims of the well-funded soy lobby.

Meanwhile, the soy hype has reached a fever pitch. Ask any woman at the gym or man in the supermarket. Even casual readers of the health or food pages are very likely to agree with the statement: "Soy is good for me. I should eat more of it."

In the cradle of the bohemian bourgeoisie, New York City’s Greenwich Village, they agree. The Soy Luck Club is a new shop and cafe featuring all things made of soy: mayonnaise, dressing, bread, pasta, baby formula, and -- of course -- soy lattes. Owner John Pi explained his inspiration: "Look at the soy section in the supermarket. It’s almost as big as the dairy department."

See? Follow the money. And when a super-food reaches such an exalted place in conventional wisdom and popular culture, beware: big money, and in this case Big Food, is at work.

How did this happen to a small yellow bean, unknown in America until the 1920s when the government started paying farmers to grow it?

In America, soy farming is now big business, worth more than $12 billion in 1999. The US produces nearly half of the global supply of soy beans, much of which is eaten as "oil cakes" by animals confined in factory farms. But as a commodity sold in bulk, soy beans and oil are not worth much. As a convenience food for human beings, however, with slick marketing and the halo of a health food, soy is worth billions. Like any value-added product, soy foods are highly profitable. Compared to what you pay for a pint of soy "ice cream," the cost of the ingredients is tiny.

For a long time, tofu was the best known human food made from soy, but its niche was small. Apart from vegetarians and fans of Asian food, few Americans ate the bland white curd. Now soy is sexy: there is "silky" soy milk, soy cheese, soy sausage, soy ice cream. These new products are certainly jazzier than tofu, but without sugar and artificial flavorings, they taste of nothing much.

A large part of their appeal rests on health claims. Soy, we are told, is good for us. In a climate of fad diets and food fears, the soy market has thrived on the stampede away from animal foods -- in this case, real milk and real meat. Soy milk is one of the fastest-growing foods in America, exploding from $2 million per year in 1980 to $300 million in 1999.

The little soy bean has traveled a long way, from animal troughs to health food stores and smart cafes, and finally to doctors' orders. Once a commodity, soy bean oil has crept onto our plates. Now almost 80% of the oil Americans eat is soy. Soy bean oil is found in hundreds of processed foods. Baked goods, tortilla chips, margarine, mayonnaise, and imitation dairy products all contain soy. Soy has taken the place in the standard American diet of the real fats in butter, milk, meat, and fish. We are eating more and more soy, largely due to the unchallenged health claims of the soy lobby.

But there is something wrong here. Soy, as most Americans eat it, is not a health food.

Why not? Let's start with soy bean oil. Soy oil is a manufactured food, not a real food. Soy beans are made into highly refined oil with factory methods that are not good for you.

Soy oil is produced with immense heat and pressure in a process called extraction . Heat-treated oils go rancid -- in other words, they spoil -- and rancid oils are carcinogenic. (Vegetable oils like olive oil must be cold-pressed to prevent this damage.) But the heat and pressure are not enough. To finish extracting the last bit of oil from soy beans, factories treat the pulp with chemical solvents like hexane.

Next, the rancid soy bean oil is chemically altered, or hydrogenated . That means the liquid oil is blasted with hydrogen to make it solid at room temperature, like butter.

Hydrogenation works like this: Start with the cheapest rancid oils and mix them with tiny metal particles -- usually nickel oxide. Put this oil-and-metal mix in a reactor under high heat and pressure and blast it with hydrogen to make it solid. Use a soap-like emulsifier to give it a creamy texture. Steam-clean the fat to remove its foul odors, bleach it to get rid of its gray color, and dye it to make it yellow like real butter. Finally, pack the fat in tubs and sell it as "heart-healthy" margarine. Does margarine sound like a real or phony food?

Hydrogenated or trans-fats are handy for Big Food -- the industrial farmers, processors, and junk-food factories that produce most of the food Americans eat. Trans-fats have a longer shelf-life, and the firm texture resembles real fats like butter. When you eat soy oil in foods other than margarine, it is almost always hydrogenated. Processed foods such as cakes, cookies, mayonnaise, and corn chips contain hydrogenated oil. But these man-made fats are dangerous. They raise cholesterol levels, block the body’s use of healthy fats, and are linked to cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. The National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine says trans-fats "have no known health benefits." Trans-fats are so bad for you, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon require them to be labeled. Even that giant of Big Food, McDonald’s, has decided to stop making fries with trans-fats.

When you learn how it is produced, "healthy" soy begins to sound less appetizing. But oil and trans-fats are only the first act for the soy bean, which plays a starring role in phony foods. Big Food has had to find more tricks to transform the humble soy bean into a seductive health food.

The soy bean is a unique plant. It is one of the few legumes with more protein than carbohydrate. When you press soy beans to make oil, a lot of protein remains. Any frugal factory manager tries to find a use for by-products. The soy industry has ingeniously turned this waste into soy foods with a market worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

But there is a problem. Animals, not people, eat soy. Unlike other cultures, Americans have no tradition of eating soy. This novel food was unknown to our grandparents. Although we have been eating margarine since the 1940s, no one called it "soy butter." There were no recipes for soy in your grandmother’s kitchen, or bags of soy beans at the corner grocery. To convince us to buy foods made from soy, Big Food has had to do two things: make phony foods look like real foods, and create the impression that soy "milk" and "cheese" are good for you.

They are not. Soy bean processing flunks the real food test: that the food should become more wholesome in processing, not less. When the food giants make soy protein, the results are not wholesome. Soy protein processing produces glutamic acid -- the natural form of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a brain poison -- and toxins and carcinogens are formed. The FDA refused to approve isolated soy protein as a safe food additive with the designation "Generally Recognized as Safe." Agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland withdrew its application for the coveted GRAS status for soy protein, after an outcry from scientists about the toxins and carcinogens that come with it. They can still put soy protein in your food, but they have to get pre-market approval for every product.

Isolated soy protein is no health food. But we don’t eat soy protein with a spoon. How do we eat it? It is the main ingredient in soy burgers, ice cream, milk shakes, and fake cheese. These soy protein products are phony foods -- but they must look like the real foods they imitate. So the soy industry transforms a small yellow soy bean into something resembling a hamburger. They make soy "milk" and "ice cream" white and creamy.

The other ingredients in these foods are no better for you than the soy protein that goes into them. Soy milk, for example, is simply a cocktail of soy protein, sugar, and vegetable oil. The "natural" MSG formed in soy processing is already bad for you, but even more MSG, and more flavorings, are added. Imitation foods need a lot of help to be tasty. Many savory soy foods are loaded with additives to give them the flavor of the real foods they mimic. Most imitation meat, for example, contains man-made MSG, which causes migraines and is associated with brain cancer.

But it gets worse. The soy bean itself is dangerous. Even the soy industry admits that soy products contain toxins. These toxins are usually referred to as "anti-nutrients" because they make it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. Soy is rich in the anti-nutrient phytic acid . Phytic acid binds with iron and zinc, which are essential for the health of the brain and nervous system. That means the body can’t use the iron and zinc it has -- or copper, calcium, and magnesium. Too many phytates retard growth in children. Soy also contains substances called trypsin inhibitors . They make it difficult to digest proteins.

Soy can be bad for your sex life too, especially if you’re a man. It contains high levels of phytoestrogens -- plant compounds that mimic estrogens. Like many environmental pollutants, phytoestrogens act as "endocrine disruptors," which means they interfere with our hormones. By acting like estrogens, these plant compounds are bad for the sexual development and virility of boys and men. Buddhist monks knew this; they ate tofu to reduce their libido.

Women should also be wary of soy. Studies show that high doses of phytoestrogens from soy may contribute to breast cancer. The soy phytoestrogen genistein encourages cancer in breast cells. Yet soy proponents claim that phytoestrogens protect women against breast cancer. A British government report found little evidence that soy protects against breast cancer, and some evidence that soy foods increase cancer risks. Soy foods can stimulate the growth of tumors that feed on estrogen. Genistein is also linked to thyroid trouble, which affects appetite, mood, and sex drive in both men and women. The soy industry also claims that phytoestrogens reduce the symptoms of menopause, including night sweats and hot flashes. But the Journal of Clinical Oncology reported that soy isoflavone -- a phytoestrogen -- was "no better than a placebo" in controlling hot flashes in women with breast cancer. That means candy would be as effective.

The soy lobby claims that because soy is rich in calcium it prevents osteoporosis -- thinning of the bones -- a serious problem for older people. But the opposite is true. Soy foods cause deficiencies in calcium and Vitamin D, which are essential for strong bones.

Soy milk is particularly harmful for babies, yet the soy industry markets soy formula aggressively, and the US government pays low-income women to buy it. The high doses of phytoestrogens in soy infant formula may disrupt hormones, development, and immunity. According to a 1986 study in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition , babies who drank soy-based formula had twice the rate of Type I diabetes of babies who did not. Soy milk is also linked to thyroid disease in babies. One quarter of American infants who are not breastfed drink soy formula. A campaign called Soy Alert is working to reduce infant soy feeding.

All this sounds Aha, say the soy advocates, but what about the Asian diet? They eat tons of soy, and get less breast and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease than we do.

Wrong. Asians do eat soy. However, they eat soy in small quantities, usually as a fermented condiment, and usually with an animal protein, such as fish broth, to make the soy digestible. Perhaps the most dangerous myth the soy lobby spreads about the Asian diet is that soy is a main source of protein. Soy is simply not a substitute for animal foods in traditional Asian diets. According to KC Chang, editor of Food in Chinese Culture , the total caloric intake due to soy in the Chinese diet in the 1930s was 1.5%, compared with 65% from pork.

The soy lobby has distorted the story of the Asian diet in other ways. Asians have lower rates of osteoporosis. The soy lobby credits calcium-rich soy. But it is real foods -- calcium from fish and meat broth, and Vitamin D from seafood and other animal fats -- that prevent bone thinning in those cultures. Broth is the world’s oldest health food, but sadly there is no broth lobby.

Moreover, Asians eat a very different kind of soy from Americans. In Asia it is well known that raw and unfermented soy beans are indigestible. Soy farming started around 1100 BC in China, where it was used to build soil fertility and feed animals. Soy beans were not considered fit for humans until the Chinese learned to ferment them, which makes them digestible. Asian diets now include fermented soy beans in the form of natto ,miso ,tamari , and tempeh .

Soy producers want you to eat more soy -- more than the Asians eat, and more than is good for you. The Japanese and Chinese eat 10 grams of soy per day -- about two teaspoons. Yet a soy manufacturer recommends Americans eat ten times what the Japanese eat -- 100 grams of soy protein per day. In The Soy Zone , Barry Sears recommends a daily diet of a minimum of 50 grams of soy, and up to 75 grams for women and 100 grams for men. It’s like red wine: a glass or two a day may be good for you; a bottle or two every day rots your liver.

But never mind what the Asians eat. What do we eat? Many Americans believe soy is a good meat substitute. The experts tell vegetarians they can eat soy to take the place of real foods like turkey or steak. Indeed, entire fad diets, like the one Barry Sears advocates, are built on soy. Wrong again. Soy is simply inadequate as a main source of protein.

First, the claim that tofu will provide all the protein you need is false. Tofu is not a complete protein: it lacks two essential amino acids which the body cannot produce , and should be eaten with other proteins, as Asians eat it. Second, soy foods are said to provide Vitamin B12, especially important for vegetarians, because B12 is vital for health and the best source of B12 is meat. But the compound in soy that looks like B12 cannot be used by the body, and in fact soy increases the body’s need for B12.

In America, Big Food brought the soy bean out of the feed bucket and onto the table, without making it digestible to humans first. With few exceptions, like tamari, the vast majority of soy products in the US are not fermented. Even the soy industry acknowledges the importance of fermentation. So does the soy-selling Barry Sears, but his Soy Zone recipes are crammed with the worst forms of unfermented industrial soy, like soy protein powders and meat substitutes. Why did he go crazy for soy? Sears is famous for the Zone Diet , a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. The diet "hinges on dramatically reducing the amount of grains, starches, and refined carbohydrates you eat," writes Sears. He does allow fruit, low-starch vegetables, and soy, up to three times a day. Clearly, peddling the Soy Zone was the only way Sears could sell his blockbuster, high-protein Zone Diet to people who do not eat meat or fish.

The story of soy, from farm to factory, food to fad, oil cake to Rx, is disturbing. It started with a commodity crop, heavily subsidized by the government. Next came an industrial process: extracting soy bean oil to make phony foods like margarine, purely because it was cheaper than real butter. That led to an industrial waste product, soy protein. Then a frugal factory manager invented a human food from the leftovers. Meanwhile, bogus arguments for a vegan diet gained credibility; animal foods like milk and beef became taboo; and myths about the traditional Asian diet spread. Along came baby boomers and other health-conscious spenders who, propelled by duty, guilt, and advertising, flocked to novel soy foods promising health and longevity. Yet people still wanted to eat protein, which is essential to human life -- and tastes so good. So a wave of fad diets dubbed protein -- especially meat and fish -- the secret of slender health. But what were the dedicated vegetarians to do now, with meat back in fashion? Soy sausage to the rescue.

The soy foods Americans eat flunk the real food test. Either eat them as the Asians have for thousands of years -- in small quantities, fermented, with animal foods. Or don't eat them at all.

For more information about the soy myth, see Why Soy Can Damage Your Health and The Weston A. Price Foundation (TM) for Wise Traditions.
Article From:

"down the Shore", NJ(Zone 7a)

I fortunately never liked soy, and often order vegetable delight, but always ask them to omit the tofu (am I right here that that is soy product?). Anyway, the fact that soy beans are like half carb and half protein seems to make them a digestive nightmare (coming from my belief in the Fit for Life way of eating (by the Diamonds). FfL allows most food, but keeps proteins and complex carbs seperate.

Santa Cruz, CA(Zone 9b)

I had a dentist who had been a dentist in China for 20 years, and he didn't say to eat soy for strong bones! He said to eat small fish bones and all (if it's small enough to do that) and to leave the chitin on shrimp. In China they eat the crunchy parts, too, and it's better for their bones and teeth. I actually have a taste for shrimp shells from a great salt baked prawn dish; they're really good if you cook them well enough. I eat my husband's leftover prawn tails.

And yes... I'd tend to agree about soy protein products. I can eat soy but if I source on it entirely for protein I feel "hollow". Before I became gluten intolerant I far preferred wheat gluten (seitan) as a vegetable protein source to soy; it stuck with me longer; lentils such as channa dal aren't as rich in protein but have more staying power for me, too. Tofu is okay but a bit hollow. Tempeh is great but I can't cook it worth a darn. Miso is good. All the fermented soy, basically.

Now that I can't have wheat gluten, I use animal protein (dairy, especially goat, and meat) and some legumes. There's wheat in soy sauce and most fake meats (and corn in the ones that don't have wheat, and corn's another problem for me) so other than edamame and the occasional tofu I'm not getting a lot of soy.

I can't think of a single Asian soy product (other than edamame, which is a snack food and not required to be healthy) that isn't fermented in some way. Isn't even tofu fermented?

This message was edited Jan 24, 2004 2:03 PM

Albany (again), NY(Zone 5b)

darius - as always, another interesting article. A lot to absorb. I'll have to read it a few more times to get all of the points.

You truly are our resident researcher!

I can remember like it was yesterday, my last visit with my surgeon after cancer. I was through treatment, etc. and she had given me as set of instructions as far as "healthy living", exercise, fruits, vegtables, etc....Soy was also included on the list. So I did some research and started taking a soy tablet every other day. I also got some tofu and made milkshakes with it with lots of fruit. I also started drinking soy milk - in moderation. With everything I've read lately, I've stopped the tofu and the supplement but I still drink about 8 oz of soy milk every other day with my vitamins. She (surgeon) and her staff still advocate soy and order from someplace here in NC. I ordered from them for awhile. They sell soy drinks, soy candybars, etc. Of course it all points back to "why" did cancer happen in the first place. No cancer in the family, etc. but where I worked I was the 9th person to get breast cancer in 3 years and like the 16th person to get some kind of cancer. There was a cement making place about 2 miles from where I worked and they were always in trouble with the epa and I have also found out since I left that place of employment, they too, have had some epa issues. So who knows, I take my vitamins, TRY to eat well, exercise, etc. Until cancer rears it's ugly head again, I will assume that the soy milk and vitamins are working - actually I believe in my heart of hearts that God has His plan for me and what will happen will happen but that is my personal opinion. But GREAT article Darius, and I, too, am reading all the recent "truths" about soy.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

WOW! For the first time on all these "health conscious" posts I've made, you ALL have had some really positive things to add!!! I'm impressed.

I'm a bit humbled, frankly, and admit I sorely underestimated my friends here at DG.

Flit... interesting comments about calcium from small bones (I eat them in sardines) and shells of shrimp, etc. I need to look into it more. Thanks!

John, yes, tofu is non-fermented soy. I happen to love tempeh, which I understand is fermented but I don't yet know if that's really correct.... because tufu comes from tempeh, right? (I really don't know.) Mostly, I like that it has a lot of texture, lacking in tofu.

I like tempeh sliced thin and sautéd, then added to scrambled eggs mixed with veggies and vrown rice or bulgur for breakfast.

Vic.. You have come a zillion miles on your journey to recovery. You are to be admired and congratulated for your determination, and your willingness to do whatever it takes to regain full health. I bet your cancer stems from an industrial source, as you suggested.

Vic, may I make one suggestion, that can really make a difference? Do NOT say, Until cancer rears it's ugly head again... Rather, say, IF cancer rears it's ugly head again.

There is a lot to be said for the subliminal message we give ourselves, their effect, and how we can change them to more positive images. Usually we don't even know we are doing it.

This message was edited Jan 25, 2004 8:56 AM

San Francisco, CA

I think the myth started because certain asian cultures eat more soy then we do and have less obesity related illness, but I think the soy is just a concidence, and they have less heart disease due to a better healthier cultural diet over all with less rich deserts and less junk food. Also genes could play a role.

Citrus Heights, CA(Zone 9b)

The average urban japanese eats 7 to 10 grams of salt a day.Where's the water retention and high-blood pressure? It's probely with the missing fat they don't have. I eat alot of salt. My blood pressure is usually 106 to 110 over 62 to 65. The salt from soy sauce, regular salt and tons of asain food I eat should be bopping me up there. I also drink lots of water.Wash in wash out. I ask people who retain water how much water do you drink? the answer is almost always none! The secret is drink more not less.When I weighed lots more I had much higher pressure.The more fat,the more water cells, the higher the retention.It comes down to numbers, this adds up, this subtracts. Can I be in the club too?

Lakeview, MI(Zone 5a)

I don't eat soy but I have been trying to read labels and avoid trans fat since reading your article Darius. I was reading the label on a big tub of country crock margerine and the label claims no trans fat, but then I think someone posted that only promise contained no trans fat. Do you know anything more about this?

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Zen... IF a label doesn't list trans fats, here's the trick to finding out: Look at the total fat gram count, then add the grams for the listed fats (mono, poly, and saturated). Subtract that amount from the total fat count. The difference is trans fat.

Santa Cruz, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh, it looks like tofu is not actually fermented but formed like... there are some milk-based cheeses that are coagulated with lemon juice or tartaric acid, so like that.

I found a webpage on the process complete with pictures:

This jibes with recipes I've seen before for making it at home; I've made lemon-juice based cheese (dairy) at home and it was similarly straightforward. I found some notes that if you're looking for it as a calcium source you want the ones using calcium chloride or calcium sulfide as a coagulant.

Tempeh is made by soaking soybeans (and sometimes other things like barley, so I have to read the label carefully) in water and a starter of mold: -- that's the firm white matrix holding the beans together.

That may sound kind of yucky, but I'm a big fan of the right sort of microorganisms as they produce all sorts of lovely foods (wine, vinegar, cheese, yogurt, bread....) In a lot of cases the fermentation sort of pre-digests the food, or adds nutrients. Go bugs! I know some people have problems with fungal products and yeast products or fermentation results, but that's not in my complex of allergies.

We have eaten on the Zone in the past and think that it's a better diet the closer you stay to "the source"; the author is a meat-loving male. I think some of his basic precepts are sound, but when I looked into being vegetarian on the Zone I couldn't find any way to reasonably do it; soy protein frankly just tasted nasty; if I was going to use protein powder (which I don't like because it doesn't "hold well", a bit like tofu) I'd use whey and combine it with oatmeal, which does have a lot of staying power. I think oatmeal was about the only successful use I found for it, to balance the protein against the rich carbohydrates of the oats.

The Zone is really successful if you do it properly; I think women need to be a little more careful, or maybe I did; certain combinations of food didn't last well for me even if they worked for my husband. Most did, though. Our big problem with it: all the measuring. You have to get the proportions fairly well or it doesn't work -- when you do you really do have good energy and aren't hungry, but there's a lot of tedious measuring and calculation to get a new recipe to come out right. I love to cook and I'm not a measuring kind of cook, so it took all of the fun right out of cooking for me. Right now we eat with a kind of Zone ethos but not on the Zone; we eat rich in proteins, low in grains, and lots of greens, low glycemic carbs and unsaturated fats like olive oil, but don't micromanage the proportions and while it doesn't let us do reduced calorie like the Zone would (so we eat somewhat more) it isn't tedious to cook that way. If I make something really carby my husband will tend to balance it with veggie hot dogs (mostly wheat gluten-based protein) and that keeps him from feeling off kilter after eating the sweets.

About the Asian thing... when my husband was in Thailand he ate with his co-workers there and he said that they pretty much eat with portions familiar to him on the Zone... instead of taking a humungous helping of rice like Americans would (rice was included in every meal) they would take a very small helping, maybe 1/4th a typical American serving, and then a little of each of three to four other dishes. These were meat and veggie-based dishes very similar to what we'd find at Thai restaurants back home, though often far hotter. They'd take one searing hot thing, one sweet and sour thing, and one not-hot thing and use that to moderate the heat along with the rice. Omelettes were very popular. He had a lot of fun eating exactly like his co-workers instead of like an American looking for American-like food; he said that let him learn very quickly how to eat such hot food. Everyone was tiny and svelte. He had similar experiences when he went to Singapore, though the food there is even more varied because there's a blend of cultures (the main food was Chinese, but there was always food available for the Muslims and Hindus so even work-provided food while he was doing the training was really interesting and varied, whereas here we'd get donuts and coffee.)

I can't eat 99% of packaged foods anymore, since they're bound to contain either gluten or corn or peanuts, so trans fats have been easy to avoid. I'm actually eating a lot healthier now than before I got sick, heh, because I have to be so careful reading labels, and I prefer really simple formulations because then I'm not fighting allergies as much.

Lakeview, MI(Zone 5a)

Darius, I will do that, I'm becoming a real label reader.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Bumping for Newcomers

Santa Cruz, CA(Zone 9b)

Oh, I know this is an old thread, but I did more reading when I got onto thyroid medication, and soy is a goitregenic food. I can't remember how it interferes with thyroid hormones, but it does; you're not supposed to eat soy anywhere close to when you take your thyroid medication (you can eat it if you offset the time by several hours). So people who are on thyroid medications who don't know that, should!

Other foods that interfere with thyroid function are most of the brassicas, spinach, and peaches. Apricots and seaweed are helpful for hypothyroid. My doctor says I can eat all these foods in moderation, but brassicas were my main source of leafy greens before, so I've switched in more things like chard, amaranth, and purslane.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Thanks for the information, Flit. I have a borderline low thyroid problem although not on medication. I love the brassicas so maybe I'll pay more attention and see if I need to switch to some of your suggestions.

Keaau, HI(Zone 11)

Darius - thanks for bumping that thread. In Defense of Food states that unless soy is fermented it does not give any protein... I often eat it for a snack (marinated and grilled).

That article was wonderfully informative. YOU BET>>>follow the money!!!


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Thanks, Carol. Indeed, I DO eat fermented soy products, but not many because NOW I'm also on a low sodium diet.

Hughesville, MO(Zone 5a)

I'm sure I read this article way back when you first posted it but it was interesting to reread it. I googled and found a pretty good website with lots of articles by several writers. I've sent them to one of my employer's DD. Since one of my employers recently had a mastectomy and does eat only the least expensive margarine, etc. I thought they should have this information.

Thank you for being our watch dog. Your efforts are apreciated more than you can ever know.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Thanks EvaMae. I appreciate the kind words!

Cascade Mtns, WA(Zone 6a)

I have an inate distrust for foods that become 'fadish'. Although I have taken soy for my hot flashes,
I never jumped on the bandwagon for 'soymania'. After reading this article, I am glad I did not.

"Everything in moderation"

Again a great article Darius.

Alexandria, IN(Zone 6a)

Yes, I think that some of the soy products are not so great for you.

However, there are a couple or so that are soy based that are great......lecithin granules that help to emulsify cholestrol and then there's nattokinase which is a fermented soy that is very helpful to assist our blood in breaking down fibrin in the blood so it does not get too sticky and thick. Fibrin is what clots blood when you cut yourself

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

Certainly gives me something to think about.

My son who is now 28, was allergic to milk, so was put on soy infant formula at age 9 days. He seemed to thrive and was healthy, although small for his age.

When he was 13, he was tiny. People thought he was about 8.
We took him to an endocrinologist who diagnosed a growth hormone deficiency. He took the growth hormone shots for 3 years until he was able to catch up somewhat...... although still small.

He had his first dental cavity in a baby tooth at age 5. He's now 28 and has had so much dental work, and so much difficulty with his teeth, that he's had several pulled after trying to save them with root canals etc. Literally thousands of dollars have gone into his mouth.

He is miserable and has tooth pain most all the time. He's about ready to consider dentures. At age 28 ! It's sad.

Reading about soy, and putting all these things in perspective sure makes me wonder if it had something to do with his difficulties.

If it did, I wish I'd never heard of soy baby formula.

By the time he was weined from his bottle, he was able to tolerate cows milk, and has always liked it. So I don't think it was a lack of dairy products from that point on. But those first critical years of a baby's life are very important for development. Wish I knew what caused his problems for sure.

The formula he was on was called SoyaLac, by Loma Linda products. It was prescribed by our doctor. This was back in 1979.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Indy, I'm not familiar with nattokinase, but fermented soy products, in general, are good for you. Lecithin, which is quite good for helping many things in the body like lowering choloresterol and triglycerides, can be obtained from sunflower oil and from egg yolks (and maybe other sources?). Bluntly, soy lecithin is cheaper to make.

Peggy, I have often wondered how many of the illness in my friends' children and grandchildren stem from soy infant formulas. I'd guess we'll never know.

Cascade Mtns, WA(Zone 6a)

Peggie; not to sound negative but this is exactly why 'mothers milk' is the only safe infant food.
Breastfeeding is always the safest and best if at all possible. I never used any 'formula' was mom's or none at all.
My daughter at first rejected the nipple and the doctor ordered sugar water; both my husband and I were adamant in refusing it . And it was my husband that found the trick to get her suckling.... a cold rag to the forehead and off she went!

It is too late for your son but for those who are in that phase of starting a family it is good information to pass along.

Claremore, OK(Zone 6a)

I agree. I really wanted to breast feed, and had planned to from the beginning of my pregnancy. But in my 8th month, I picked up a bacterial parasite from spring water at a resort we visited and became very ill. I was hospitalized 2 wks before my due date due to severe dehydration from diarrhea. After 2 wks on IV's and no food, they decided to induce labor so they could treat me. I had lost 9 lbs. in my last month. I was so weak and sick by the time he was finally delivered, there was no way I could nurse him. It was a great disappointment to me and DH, but couldn't be helped. By the time I was well enough to nurse...the milk was gone and he had gotten used to the bottle nipple. Wish 1,000 times over that it could have been different.

Cascade Mtns, WA(Zone 6a)

Rough situation and your decision is understandable. I guess that is why I said "if at all possible".
Yours is one of those "not possible" situations, hopefully others will learn from it.

It really makes me wonder about the soy formula as well. I would have assumed they
had some calcium component put in it, but from your experience it doesn't appear that way.
I am assuming lack of calcium is partly why your sons teeth have such problems.

A lot of what we are given my the medical establishment is less than curative.
It seems the easy quick fix for one specific problem is the MO, but they rarely look at the whole system
to see what else may be affected.

Mackinaw, IL(Zone 5a)

I know this is an old thread, but I stumbled onto it today. My son is allergic to milk, so has been drinking soy milk daily since he was about 3. Thankfully, I was able to exclusively breastfeed when he was a baby, so he didn't have the very early exposure to soy products. I had no idea there were concerns about phytoestrogens and thyroid problems. He has always been less resistant to infections than other kids, and spends a good bit of every winter sick, with pneumonia, strep, bronchitis, etc. I wonder if there is any connection?

If a child can't drink cows milk, and shouldn't drink soy milk, are there other options? We briefly tried rice milk (Rice Dream) but he never liked it and much preferred the soy milk. I can't see him being willing to eat lots of fish with bones and shrimp shells to gain the calcium he needs!

Darius, any thoughts?


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Kefir? Yes, it's made with cow milk or goat milk, but the probiotics keep it from affecting milk allergies as far as I know. I know it doesn't bother folks who are lactose-intolerant. You can make it at home, but most kids prefer the store-bought because it comes in several flavors. However, it only contains about half the probiotics of home-made kefir. You might ask Dovey; she's pretty up on nutritional stuff too and knows far more about kefir that I do.

Does he like broccoli? What veggies do you grow at home?

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I agree with you, Darius, that soy is overrated as a health food and the the US government has gone way overboard with subsidizing soy growers and with trying to put it in everything. I know that soy is bad for people who have low thyroid. This is part of the standard medical practice and when doctors find a person low on thyroid, they suggest laying off soy. And soy oil is bad for us because of the way it is processed. And transfats are bad for us no matter what. ( One of the ways manufacturers avoid mentioning trans-fats is by calling them " partially hydrogenated" oil. I have even trained my husband not to eat cookies, his most favorite food, that contain trans fats or partially hydrogenated oil. )
But I do disagree with you about the danger of soy outside those stated above. Fermented soy, as in miso, has actually been shown to prevent cancer and Asians do tend to eat tofu regularly. Yes tofu is not a complete protein but if it is eaten with rice or meat or any number of other amino acids, it becomes a complete protein. It probably isn't a good idea to eat tofu 3 meals a day, each day, but, in itself it is not harmful and does provide protein.
As for calcium, it is a great mystery why Asians rarely get osteoporosis, and it could indeed be because they eat a lot of fish bones. In the US we consider fish bones a threat to our lives -- due to surgeons who love to describe the fishbones they have extracted from people's throats. On the other hand Asians cook their crispy fish in deep fat for 20 minutes or more so it will come out like potato chips and really love eating it that way -- bones and all. We wouldn't consider eating fish bones except in sardines. In SE Asia, Asians eat a lot of fish sauce -- it serves as salt -- and fish sauce is made from the fermentation of anchovies and sea water for a year or more. While the idea of fermented fish makes most Americans want to wretch, it is about 10% calcium which does help them because they use fish sauce as often as we use salt. It is probably a whole lot healthier than salt and loses the foul smell of rotting fish after it has been fermented long enough.
Though it has not been proven, there is a huge amount of data showing that it is the eating of meat and dairy products that causes osteoporosis. Asians, at least those on the traditional diet, eat meat only in small quantities or not at all. That could be the reason they don't get osteoporosis, but right now the answer isn't known.
As for soy products causing breast cancer, they are lots of studies on each side -- some claiming it does and others claiming it doesn't. Right now I think we have to consider that it is not known whether it contributes to cancer or not -- at least from what I have read.
One thing that is well known is that soy helps lower cholesterol. See Cholesterol Down by Janet Brill. And cholesterol is not only a marker for heart disease, but also for cancer. See The China Study by Colin Campbell.
So, I agree that we have been hornswaggled by the soy producers ( and the corn producers), I don't think we should throw the baby out with the bath. Soy is a good and useful product for most people.
I have a Taiwanese friend whose husband is a physicist. When her children were young he taught at a midwestern university which was surrounded by fields of soy beans and there were no soybeans for sale in the grocery stores. So my friend noticed that the farmers had failed to harvest the corners of their fields because their harvesting machinery couldn't turn that sharply, so she took her children out during the day and they harvested the soybeans in the missed corners. Eventually the farmer came out and asked them what she was doing. She said harvesting soybeans. He asked her what they did with them. She replied that they ate them. He asked what her husband did, she replied that he was a college professor. The farmer was completely shocked. He said, that he fed them to animals, but did not object to their picking the leftovers. He just seemed shocked that humans would eat soybeans. My friend was just trying to secure her traditional food.
Another point is that MSG, which is a bugaboo in American culture is a naturally formed chemical from seaweed and apparently soy -- though I didn't know it until I read this thread. I don't use it myself but my Asian friends don't get the American fear of MSG. They say, "I grew up on it and I am healthy", wondering what can be wrong with it. Whereas, if a food is suspect, I think it is best to avoid it until the whole story is known, clearly Asians eat MSG all their lives and don't understand what our problem with it is.
The amount of cancer and heart disease in the west is truly frightening. When we consider that both were miniscule in Asia until Western restaurant chains and customs entered their lives, and on the whole still are miniscule there, we should stop and think what it is that makes their diets different from those of Americans.
One outstanding book on the subject is The China Study by Colin Campbell. He doesn't address soy as an issue, but rather the difference in Western and Eastern diets with respect to meat and dairy products. He blames meat and dairy products and lack of exercise for our high rate of cancer and heart disease -- and osteoporosis and auto-immune diseases. He doesn't even mention soy. And he provides lots of experimental results to confirm his suspicions.
Dr. Campbell would not say that he has conclusively proved that meat and dairy are causing all our problems, but he does suggest that the evidence is overwhelming. He recommends an unrefined plant based whole foods diet rather than the meat based refined foods diet we live on in the west. He offers a ton of evidence in the form of scientific studies.
I suggest that all of you read his book.
Yes, soy is oversold and in some cases processed to the point where it is dangerous to consume -- in oils. It is great for building the soil, however and makes healthy food products in many cases.
I don't think we need to condemn soy. I also think there is a whole lot more wrong with our diet than soy.
I have been trying to get someone to read The China Study and to discuss it with me. Maybe you will be the right person, Darius -- or some of the rest of you.
I have always enjoyed your articles, Darius. Let's talk about diet!

This message was edited Mar 15, 2009 10:25 PM

Mackinaw, IL(Zone 5a)

He is able to eat some yogurt and aged cheese, as the fermentation process breaks down the protein strands. It is the protein he reacts to, rather than the milk sugars. I don't know if he'd eat kefir or not--I've never tried it. I did make homemade yogurt for him for 2-3 years, until he discovered the super-sweet commercial kind, and then it was a struggle to get him to eat anything else.

I don't think I know Dovey--what's her screen name?

At home, I grow beans, peas, cukes, lots of tomatoes & peppers, onions, garlic, spinach, romaine lettuce, carrots, broccoli, several culinary herbs. He's a pretty good eater, and likes his fruits & veggies. He used to beg for broccoli in the grocery store, which always got a laugh from the other shoppers.


So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

paj.... we are not in disagreement. I think fermented soy products are wonderful. I use tamari when I can get the real fermented kind; what's in the grocers' is mostly fast-track and not fermented. I also love tempeh. I slice it thin, sauté it, and scramble it with eggs, onions and sprouts. Again, it's a fermented soy. Food, that is good food high in nutrition, is almost a thing of the past. All the components are a giant puzzle and it's hard to get all the pieces together. Even when we do, writing about it would be writing a whole book, not simply a single puzzle piece at a time.

Angie, Dovey is her screen name and she's in Ohio. Try adding some CalPhos to your vegetable beds, and some trace minerals. It has lots of available calcium which your veggies will take up. You might re-read my articles on calcium, phosphate and the one on Brix for a better understanding of how to increase the calcium in what you grow.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Asians also eat unfermented soy products -- such as regular tofu. It is a big and complicated puzzle, but the consumption of meat and dairy play a very large part in that puzzle. Soy, the right soy products, are as harmful as one hears.
Cows milk is dangerous for babies, soy milk isn't the greatest either. Breast milk is what works for human babies -- though occasionally that is impossible. The real problem with nursing new borns, however, is the unwillingness of American businesses to give nursing mothers time and privacy to pump breast milk or to bring the baby to work. This is one of the most important nutritional changes we could make, is allowing mothers to both work and nurse their babies.

Mackinaw, IL(Zone 5a)

Amen, pajaritomt! I nursed both of my boys, but it would have been much more difficult if I'd had to return to work right away. I was very blessed to have been able to stay home until the youngest was 2, when I returned to work part time. There is just no substitute! My kids were exceptionally healthy when they were being breastfed. I just wish there was some way to continue to offer that benefit now that they are 7 and 10, and well beyond breastmilk.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

One more thing I want to add about soy (don't forget that article is 5 years old, at least in posting it on DG). Three mega-companies now own ALL the soybean patents in the world. When they put their advertising dollars at work, what do you think they promote? SOY products. Now they have gone a step farther, engineering a soy bean that will not reproduce beans to replant. You have to buy new seed every year. So... if you have a business making and selling soy products, they gotcha by the short hairs.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I know you don't think very well of soy, but here is an article you might find slightly encouraging. The planting of GMO soy this year is falling because people are paying a premium for non-GMO soy and because Roundup Ready Soy turns out to be expensive because farmers can't save seed from year to year. At least a few good things are happening.

and though breast milk is best for babies, soy is a valuable substitute for meat for those who struggle with cholesterol and triglyceride problems. See:

This message was edited Mar 17, 2009 12:00 AM

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Interesting article. I came into the thread because I'd read something about there being a concern with soy and thyroid function. Looks like there's much more to it, though. I'm glad I'm finally getting this information.

My endocrinologist said I don't need to avoid any specific foods, aside from the morning ritual of taking synthroid well before I consume much of anything else, including vitamins. Maybe I don't need to worry about it because I don't have much thyroid function left anyway.

Although I've never indulged in the soy fad (I like real meat!), I confess that I've eaten way too much processed food in my life. Working on changing my habits. But I have friends who think it's ridiculous that I don't like frozen dinners. They swear by their cartloads of Lean Cuisine. I wonder what's in those things. Darius, if you have an article on frozen dinners, I'd love to read it.

So.App.Mtns., United States(Zone 5b)

Sorry, I seldom succumb to a frozen dinner. IF I buy frozen foods at all, it is likely to be something like Cascadian Farms Organic vegetables. On the rare occasions I can find (and afford) wild salmon, I cut into small portions and freeze. Other than that, my freezer is usually full of flour (keeps the whole germ fresh), nuts, and berries I have frozen for processing later...

I have a thyroid problem too. Low. Every new doctor (many, since I moved a lot) for years has always said it sounds like I have low thyroid function... and then the tests always come out normal. Two years another doc did some research and put me on synthroid. Now her replacement, won't refill the script.

The best thing that has ever worked for my thyroid was the Body Type Diet by Dr. Abravanel. His theory is that we all tend to overwork one endocrine gland, whichever is dominant for our body. Mine happens to be thyroid.

I followed his "diet" religiously for 8-9 months and have never felt better nor had more energy in my life. (It's NOT a weight-loss diet although I lost 40 pounds.) Not sure why I stopped, had to do with a move and a new relationship I think. My only problem was eating all the quantity of foods, and he stresses that you MUST eat all the particular foods for each meal as they interact. I finally cut down the amounts after the first 6 or so weeks, and was fine after that.

The first 6 days were a bear because I had to give up thyroid-stimulating foods in order for the thyroid to rest and repair itself. Now that you have reminded me, I'm going to drag out my book and get back on it again!

Houston, United States(Zone 9b)

Wow this is excellant. I've been wondering about the "benefits" of soy for awhile and on DG since 06 and here lay this article in 04 I'd not seen! Thanks for posting this.

I must say, OT, hearing the breast feeding argument, to me is like a slap in the face. I was berated for not bfing my two. Do you think I want my kids unhealthy?! I physically drank triple the water intake I would normally have done, I took Fenugreek until I smelled like an ethnic foods store along with trying any other "tip" people would tell me I needed to do. I had NO milk. For DD1 I bf her anyway, knowing I must have low milk but she wouldn't take to a bottle. At 5 months she made the switch and she quickly put on weight after being below average for 5 months. With DD2 I pumped because then I could SEE if I was having any. I had surplus but this only lasted for her first 2 months and then I dried up completely.

I know in people's argument that "mothers milk is best" they soften it with "if possible" but don't people think everyone knows that's the ideal situation? Having had the most difficult time and spending HUNDREDS of dollars on 3 different pumps to find the one that didn't hurt to pump with I can say I would never judge another for using formula, you never know their story.

Darius, thanks for the article it was so helpful!

Houston, United States(Zone 9b)

Cross reference, soy formula:

Indianapolis, IN(Zone 5b)

Don't let any doctor bully you into believing that there's nothing wrong when you know there is. I did, and I deeply regret it.

I'm reading Thyroid For Dummies, and Dr. Rubin writes that about half of all thyroid conditions are undiagnosed. He also talks about the proper bloodwork that needs to be done to test thyroid function. Doctors typically evaluate TSH levels in the blood, but they also need to look at T3 and T4. Many doctors don't know that, and they also don't know that the range for what's considered a normal TSH level has recently changed. You really need a good endocrinologist to do the proper testing and evaluating.

You might be experiencing what they call subclinical hypothyroidism, and some doctors are changing their minds about whether they should treat that. Whereas before they wouldn't treat it, some studies show that many patients do need to be treated for it. Treating the thyroid condition can help with other conditions that the patient has, or may be at risk for. Keep in mind that thyroid hormone effects just about every cell in your body, so when it's off, even by just a little bit, naturally you're going to feel the difference.

That's great that you're able to stick to a diet that makes you feel that much better. I wish I had that kind of discipline!

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