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9.19.2007

Sorry, that Soy latte is NOT healthy: The Dangers of Soy Part I

Okay, so I've been slandering soy and soybean oil quite a bit as of late without much justification .. yet. This post has already grown beyond reading capacity, so this will be part one of a series on soy. Evidence is mounting against the "healthy" soy bean, and many doctors, nutritionists, and researchers are very vocal on their concern about soy safety. I should first distinguish between fermented and unfermented soy products: fermented soy products such as tamari, tempeh, miso (careful, this is often made with koji-barley/gluten), and natto do not pose the health risk from active soy isoflavones and compounds. The fermentation process actually inactivates these compounds, whereas typical cooking does little to battle them. If you've ever attempted to cook dried soybeans from scratch by soaking and simmering, you know full well how long soybeans have to cook just to be edible!

In nature, soy protects itself from predators by containing a high concentration of phyotestrogens (see below). If an animal were to eat the soy plant, these estrogen-like compounds would prevent absorption of the soy protein and nutrients and, furthermore, the phystoestrogens would mess with the animal's endocrine system via disruption of hormones and thyroid function. In this fashion, the soy plant provides natural form of birth control. In the wild, even birds will not eat soy - ironic since commercial animal feed is stuffed full of genetically engineered soy.

The first utilization of soy in China was the implementation of the soy root system for aiding in Nitrogen fixing of the soil - it was not considered edible until fermentation processes were developed much later. I am sure you've heard all the rave about "heart healthy soy protein," but that is just what it is: unfounded hype. The truth is all of the scientific studies supporting the benefits of soy were mostly funded by soy interest groups or intense pressure from the mass soy market was put upon the FDA. The soy industry is a mega marketing scheme; soy oil and palm oil comprise over half of the world's oil supply (thanks to Melissa at Gluten Free for Good for an interesting article on soy which I'll talk about on post 2).

The notorious studies about the lower risk of heart attacks for Asians due to soy consumption (the FDA uses these to justify its "25 grams of soy protein a day for heart health") range from incomplete to downright false. Many details are left out of these studies, especially the fact that the Asian diet consumes mostly fermented soy products or consumes unfermented soy along with seafood, seaweed, or other high iodine foods which combat the thyroid-damaging effects of unfermented soy.


The FDA's Soy Experts Speak Out Against Soy

Additionally, isoflavones are inhibitors of the thyroid peroxidase which makes T3 and T4. Inhibition can be expected to generate thyroid abnormalities, including goiter and autoimmune thyroiditis. There exists a significant body of animal data that demonstrates goitrogenic and even carcinogenic effects of soy products. Moreover, there are significant reports of goitrogenic effects from soy consumption in human infants and adults."

"there is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones found in soy, including genistein and equol, a metabolize of daidzen, demonstrate toxicity in estrogen sensitive tissues and in the thyroid. This is true for a number of species, including humans".

The Destructive Aspects of Soy:
  • Soy is a major allergen as stated by the USDA - one of the "Big 8"
  • Most soy products are genetically modified, unless you buy organic non-GMO soy. This genetically altered soy has perpetrated our food supply. Soy lecithin or soy hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP) is added to practically everything.
  • Soy contains hemagglutinin which can promote red blood cell clumping. Hemagglutinin is also a growth inhibitor which contributes to the dangers of soy infant formula. Studies indicate that soy formula increases the risk for the development of autoimmune disorders, in particular thyroid disorders. Early studies in the 1980's show that feeding soy formula increased the risk for diabetes. Personally, I was weaned early and put on soy formula. I wonder how this reflects my health now and whether it contributes to Celiac disease and dairy intolerance among other allergies.
  • It is a rich source of the isoflavones genistein and daidzein, the lignans coumestans, and the lignan precursor secoisolariciresinol. primary sources of phytoestrogens (substances which mimic estrogen). These isoflavones are commercially advertised as one of the great health benefits of soy since studies indicated that soy helped alleviate the symptoms and severity of menopause; these results are a direct demonstration of how the isoflavones do interfere with the endocrine system and disrupt hormones since the dietary soy isoflavone intake of the participants was sufficient to replace their lost estrogen. While this result was previously considered "good" for menopausal women, it is not for healthy women and especially young women of childbearing age.
    • Soy isoflavones are linked to early maturation in girls.
    • Recently, the North American Menopause Society released a statement that they do not support the use of soy for menopause and hormonal treatment. The high levels of soy phytoestrogens are fingered as culprits for many reproductive disorders like increased risk for breast cancer and infertility.
    • Phytoestrogens alter sexual differentiation and increase reproductive disorders in men. Men don't need any more estrogen-like compounds; the phytoestrogens disrupt the delicate testosterone/estrogen balance more intensely in men than women.
  • Soy contains metabolism and absorption blockers which actually prevent the absorption of all of that advertised 'great soy protein' - again ironic, since soy is a vegetarian and vegan protein source
  • Soy beans are high in phytic acid which blocks the absorption of many minerals such as calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc.
  • Soy protein and commercial refined foods are highly processed with acid washes, chemical solutions, and high heat.... appetizing? Cancer-causing nitrates are actually added to the soy protein in the production process.
  • Unfermented soy destroys the brain and is linked with Alzheimer's and a wide array of learning disabilities (more on this in post dos)
  • Soybean oil is often hydrogenated and is very refined (more on this in post dos)
Check out the topics I linked for scientific articles and more info. Also, here are some extra references:
Wikipedia on Soy
Udo Erasmus, Fats that Heal, Fats that Kill
Dr. Joseph Mercola on Soy (he comments on scientific articles)
About.com's Mary Shomon on Soy and the Thyroid

I understand that many vegetarians and vegans out there rely heavily on soy. I was once vegetarian too (well, starchatarian really). Without the newest, most detailed research, what you hear in the news leads you to believe that soy is healthy. Echoing my sister as of late: "I put soy milk in my coffee, that's healthy right?" I felt bad but I had to say no. Hey, at least she cares about her health in the first place! I am just displaying the studies and putting out the information so people can make balanced educated choices. At the very least, I wouldn't overdo it on soy (everything in moderation). If you're a Vegan, I suggest Vegetation Ramblings for soy free, vegetarian, gluten free recipes. For us, we only use wheat free tamari (fermented), some Bragg's (unfermented, it's my little seasoning splurge), occasionally soy vegan cheese for me (but rice vegan is better), and I will eat a can of those black soy beans once in a blue moon. Tofu makes me quite ill and I avoid giving Jon any soy products at all costs. Well, as they say, that's all folks .. for now.

Cindalou's Kitchen Blues: Healthy Celiac / Coeliac Gluten and Dairy Free Recipes

28 comments:

  1. Wow, Cindy! Good post with interesting information. I'm looking forward to part II. You know, I've never even eaten natto. I guess I should at least give it a try so I know what it tastes like. :-)

    Along with all the other negative things you mentioned, soy is just plain hard to digest. I pretty much avoid it for a variety of reasons (most of which you mentioned), except for tamari and miso on occasion.

    Thanks for the information!

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  2. Oh no! I just became a vegetarian and also thought soy was very healthy - now what do I eat?? lol. Every time u hear something is good for you, the next month it is not. Thanks for the info tho! Nice post!

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  3. I don't eat Soy but I do know it makes great candle wax!

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  4. As an arthritic, I too was amazed to find that 1) I had a thyroid issue as part of the disease, and 2) that soy could help kill me. I wasn't using soy itself, but soy products such as flour and TVP for the nutritional content and the fact that it's high in potassium--a plus for my hypertensive hubby.

    Now, I can add soy to my "no eat" list, along with wheat, gluten, and dairy. It looks like my world has been reduced to meat, fruit, and vegetables--good thing they're healthy! :) I also discovered that kelp can help my thyroid function better because it contains iodine, so I take it daily.

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  5. Hi Cindalou. I guess this means no more Tofu?

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  6. Soy is one of those things that people tend to overdo in an attempt to live a healthy lifestyle. Most soy, consumed in moderation, is fine for most people if you are not allergic to it.

    Keeping it in moderation can be difficult for people who consume a lot of processed foods. The problem lies in people not being aware of just how much soy they eat on a daily basis. Most people would count soy milk, tofu, and other direct soy products but leave out thinks like non-dairy creamer, CoolWhip dessert topping, boxed macaroni and cheese, instant potatoes, pretzels, potato chips, most canned soups and dry soup mixes to name just a very few of the total number of foods containing soy.

    Pretty much anything that mentions Hydrolyzed plant protein, Vegetable broth, Hydrolyzed soy protein, Vegetable gum, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Vegetable starch, or "Natural flavoring" is likely to contain soy.

    This PDF is written to help parents feed their soy-allergic kids and is a pretty good primer on where we find and consume soy in our diets without noticing it.

    www.choa.org/menus/documents/Wellness/teachingsheets/soyfreediet.pdf

    I do not eat many processed foods and as a result I have a good idea of how much soy I consume. I make a point of not overdoing it but substituting some tofu for chicken in an entree or two a week is not a habit I plan to change anytime soon.

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  7. Wow, thanks for all your comments! Techfun, thanks for the info and pdf. You are right about all the places where soy is hidden. Even canned tuna has soy in the broth... I'm pretty sure that real tuna fish swimming in the sea don't come with soy vegetable broth pumping through their veins. But hey, who are we to tell the processed food industry about food? They know all about it, right? :)
    At least they do know how to market their "food" and make it as cheap as possible by adding inexpensive fillers like corn and soy. Just check how many things including even little things like Stevia or Splenda have modified food starch or some corn-based agent like dextrose or maltodextrin. Eugh. Both dextrose and maltodextrin are high g.i. and cause insulin spikes followed by quick crashes. Celiacs should be careful with maltodextrin since it is derived from corn and potato here in the USA, but it is often made from wheat in Europe. Anything you suspect as being imported or just whenever you're just in doubt, CALL! Check the source of these fillers. It's annoying to do this all the time, but it is worth it. Anyways, that's off topic.
    Yes, soy (like many things) should be severely cut down or eliminated if possible. It is not a health food as it is advertised- the soy companies have more money and political influence than we'd like to know. In the end, vegetarian or not, there is no miracle cure or perfect "one" superfood. We all need to live balanced and active lives.

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  8. Sally Fallon has been an outspoken advocate against unfermented soy products for many years now.

    Read Tragedy and Hype

    I stick to legumes, soaked grains, cheese, veggies and tempeh to counteract my wine and cigarette habit.

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  9. Hey Cindy-

    My husband won't let soy in the house. He is really funny about it actually. Needless to say we are big on breastfeeding.

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  10. HI,

    It's Sophie again (this time I'll post a comment using my personal blog ID). I didn't know this about soy and I'm a bit disturbed. I can actually tolerate Soy Milk and often use it in my breakfast cereal! What alternatives do you suggest? Should I try goat's milk? I've heard that folks who are lactose intolerant might find it easier to digest goat's milk, but I've always been too "scared" to try it :D! What do you suggest? I'm not a fan of rice milk, and I can't have almonds, so almond milk is out of the question :(...

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  11. Sophie,

    I'd recommend Hemp milk since it is naturally gluten free and loaded with healthy omega 3 and 6 good fats. It also has a decent amount of protein for "milk". If you don't like hemp milk, have you tried hazelnut milk? I know you said almonds bother you, so I'm not sure if another tree nut based milk would do the same.

    Organic coconut milk is delicious and healthy. We get it super cheap in cans at Whole Foods. The fat in coconut is "good" cleaning burning fat, but if you're strictly monitoring your fat intake, go for the "lite" version- it is a bit cheaper ($0.99/can as opposed to $1.19/can for full fat here) and it has 4 g fat rather than 12 per serving. You can always water down the full fat stuff as well. Watch the ingredients in canned coconut milk; the Whole Foods brand we get (it is the cheapest) is just coconut meat, water, and guar gum. I've seen many other coconut milks which have additives, so read carefully. Oh, and if you do have widespread nut issues, know that coconut is not a "nut" at all (you may already know that).

    Look for the unsweetened varieties of any milk since 1 serving (1 c.) contains about 15 g added sugar on average.

    As far as goat's milk, I cannot tolerate it :( It has a different form of the milk protein casein (A vs B) which means these molecules are smaller than cow's casein (the other type) and thus assumably easier to digest. The smaller molecules and casein type make goat milk more similar to (human) mother's milk. Goat milk has the same amount of lactose as cow milk though. I think the verdict on goat milk is hung; tolerance is on an individual basis in my experience. I love goat milk and cheese, but it makes me break out in a rash and get very (gastrointestinal wise) ill. It is such as shame since I do miss it. I am debating getting some raw, unpasteurized local goat milk from the farmer's market this summer and attempting to culture it into my own goat milk keifer.

    Hope that helps, and yes I'd love to link our sites with recipes, etc. It is wonderful to hear from people who care! ~Grateful sigh~ I sometimes feel like this blog is all virtual since I don't meet the people who I "touch" or inspire, but once in awhile it is a real blessing to see/hear from those who are on their own path, chuggin' along too :)

    Cindy

    Oh, I guess I should note that you can, with perseverance, make "milk" from anything. All you need is a blender, water, and thing (nut, hemp, seed, soy, blah blah). I wonder if quinoa or teff milk would be good? I wouldn't bother with flax milk, it'd be an icky goo and the delicate omega 3's would spoil quickly. Let me know what you try!

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  12. Hi. I just came across this from a link from another link! I also had no idea that soy was so bad for us. I am only recently exploring different eatting habits for myself and my children because my 6year old has severe excema and I know the topical meds dont work, so I am trying to eliminate processed foods and preservatives etc. What really amazes me now that I am researching, is how bad foods hide under seemily innocent names. Vegetable broth? I have copied your info to take with me the next time I go shopping. My hubby is afraid that pretty soon we will be living on a farm growing and raising our own food. Thank you for your post. It helps inform uninformed people like me!!

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  13. so, nothing - is - good - for - you. awesome.

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  14. I'm so glad I found your blog. It's very refreshing to find someone spreading the truth about soy. Although, I only found out a few months ago that stuff is not healthy. My question is why are they putting it more and more products.

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  15. I never really knew that soy was bad. I mean I'd heard a lot of debate about it, but never heard many facts from either site. Thanks for sharing all this. I used to be vegan and ate soy quite often, but now I'm following a raw vegan diet and can't even have soy products. So I guess that solves the problem for me!

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  16. Say no to soy! haha. I'm a bit biased (soy allergy) but I think it's great that you're pointing out the downsides of soy. I think a lot of people don't know about it.

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  17. Soy Contamination of Children Exposed! Soy is an active "Plant-estrogen" that even the NIH confirms as an "Endocrine disruptor" which is proven as extremely health-damaing especially to fetus, infant, and children exposed. During pregnancy maternal consumption of soy is proven capable of damaing the endocrine system of fetus, and again to the infant during breast feeding. Worst of all is the soy-based infant formulas, (unfortunately most milk formulas also contain soy!), that are plant-estrogen-endocrine-disruptors as 100% of infants dietary intake. The FDA has not approve soy-based infant formulas! And the FDA has no evidence that any child can normally survie the physiological and neurological damage caused particularly during most sensitive developmental timeframs! You can contact me of your soy phyto-toxic experience at soyinfantdamage@yahoo.com
    Sincerely,
    Gail

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  18. I am vegetarian and hardly use soy at all, mostly because I don't cook with it very well but also because I love vegetables so much that they become the main event at every meal. We do a lot of rice and beans as a complete protein. I love cooking with coconut milk. It makes everything taste like dessert. It is great for braising greens, and I throw in tomatoes or persimmons, onions, garlic, whatever. I began to avoid soy after hearing that it wasn't good for little boys because of the estrogen. I have a son and so pretty much whatever I eat, he also eats. Thanks for this extremely informative article. I recommend to vegatarians that they put the veg back in it!

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  19. Yep, I'm chugging along. My daughter (2yr old) is dairy, egg, soy, fish, legume (white beans, chickpeas etc), tree nut, cocoa, tomato, corn, sesame, allergic. So I'm on the path to trying to cook a restricted vegan diet for our family... although we can eat meat. This is a very interesting read. Thanks! Natalie

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  20. Healthy eating and many other protien sources really gives emphasis to build muscles and holding postures rather than dynamism.Thanks for sharing the wonderful post,quite nice information.

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  21. Wonderful article. Just wanted to elaborate on the Asian cultures use of Seaweed as a main part their staple and thyroid function relations. Seaweed provides ample supplies of most of the essential TRACE elements required for adequate ENZYME functioning through the entire body especially in the liver and glands.

    Regular SEAWEED iodine intake is more than just thyroid food, it also can protect the thryoid gland from potential resident iodine (131) induced molecular disruption and cell death when the thyroid gland is fully iodized with iodine (127).

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  22. That's not a good news. I lost lot of time to start eating soya... and now you're telling me that it's not healthy?!
    Anyway thanks for that info.

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  23. Wonderful to find this information here in an easy to read format. I am forwarding this to my mother, sister, aunt-everyone!

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  24. When I first heard about phytoestrogens, I ran from soy like the plague. But it slowly started creeping back into my diet until I heard, like you mentioned, that most soy products are GMOs as well. That kicked it for me. I had no idea that soy actually contained metabolism and absorption blockers though. Ironic, like you said.

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  25. Cindy:
    Where is Part II of the Dangers of Soy? Or, haven't you put that article up yet?
    Soy is nothing more than a cheap filler that the food industry uses to cut down costs, including reducing the sizes of the containers.
    Since soy is also added to animal food grain mixtures, I also wonder about eating animal meat would also be a bad idea as well. Do you have any evidence of this? Your thoughts, please.

    Anonymous

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  26. Noooooo! My sister just told me that my soy latte wasn't healthy. I didn't believe her so I came online to do some more research. I can't believe it. Why the heck has everyone always told me it's healthy? Your description of it makes it sound pretty horrible. What's the deal?

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  27. In comparison to the nasties in cows milk and goats milk, these are not bad factors. You have to take these things with a pinch of salt else you'll end up wrapped in a bubble away from all the "nasties" which our ancestors ate for years and never did them any harm. If your diet is "free" from everything then you're not going to be very healthy anyway. Our bodies are made to fight things, I'm pretty sure it can handle some soy milk and tofu.

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  28. The main problem with this article is that wikipedia is used a reference. Big mistake!

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Blessed be,
Cindy