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Soy: Healthy or Harmful?

Written By: Kristine Klitzke  |  Posted: Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

             Soy products and by-products have become very popular in the US. In fact, soy has emerged as a 'near perfect' food, with claims it can provide an ideal source of protein, lower cholesterol, protect against cancer and heart disease, reduce menopause symptoms, and prevent osteoporosis. In addition, it has been noted that Japanese women who eat a lot of soy have less breast cancer than women in the U.S. Yet to assume that soy is "healthy" based on these statements would not be prudent.
            It is interesting to learn how soy emerged as a "health" product from a product that in the early 1900's was listed in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook not as a food but as an "industrial product."
            According to expert Mary Enig, PhD, "The reason there's so much soy in America is because they [the soy industry] started to plant soy to extract the oil from it…Once they had as much oil as they did in the food supply they had a lot of soy protein residue left over, and since they can't feed it to animals, except in small amounts, they had to find another market."
            Since that time, the soybean industry has been filling America's shelves with soy derivatives such as soy flour, textured soy protein, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, and soy protein isolate - none of which were part of the traditional Japanese diet. They are found in many popular protein shakes/drinks/bars, soy cheese, soy milk, soy margarine, vegetable oils, burgers and hot dogs, baby formula, cereals, breads, and flour just to name a few. These soy derivatives have also become a major ingredient in fast foods and prepackaged frozen meals. Again - it is important to note that these soy products and by-products should not be confused with the natural and fermented soy components of the traditional Japanese diet.
            As a result of millions of dollars spent on advertising and intense lobbying to the FDA, it is not surprising that most U.S. consumers now believe soy products are healthy.
            The darker side of soy is revealed through numerous studies that indicate soy products may 1) increase the risk of breast cancer in women and developmental abnormalities in infants, 2) contribute to thyroid disorders - especially in women, 3) promote kidney stones, 4) weaken the immune system, and 5) cause severe, potentially fatal food allergies. Also, it is important to note that soy products contain 1) phytoestrogens (isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen, 2) phytates, which block the body's uptake of nutrition/minerals, 3) enzyme Inhibitors which hinder protein digestion, and 4) haemaggluttin, which causes red blood cells to clump together and prevent oxygen uptake.
            In addition, most soybeans are grown on farms that use toxic pesticides and herbicides - substances which can also cause health concerns including hormone disruption. Furthermore, many soybeans are grown from genetically engineered plants - whose long-term effects are not fully known.
            One of the most disturbing of soy's ill effects on health has to do with its ability to mimic the effects of the hormone estrogen. This property has been found to have adverse effects on various human tissues - breast tissue, prostate tissue, and thyroid tissue are all particularly vulnerable. Yet, while the FDA regulates estrogen-containing products, no warnings exist on soy. Drinking even two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough of the chemical to alter a woman's menstrual cycle. Soy is even problematic for infants, making soy infant formula less than ideal as a source of infant nutrition. It has been estimated that infants who are fed soy formula exclusively receive the estrogen equivalent of five birth control pills every day - oh my!
            On the other hand, please note that there are some redeeming qualities to soy, however these are found primarily in fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and natto and soybean sprouts. If you desire to obtain health benefits from soy, stick to these forms and pass up the myriad of other soy foods that are so readily disguised as "health foods."
            For more on the potential health and hormone risks of soy, contact me. It would be a joy to hear from you! Please note that this information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to treat, cure, or diagnose. The best health care decisions are made between an educated patient and a trusted health care provider. You may also refer to my book, Hormone Balance: A Matter of Life & Health or booklet, Top 10 Truths of Hormone Balance by contacting me @ 920.731.5815 or klitzke4@new.rr.com.

            Kristine Klitzke is an RN, BSN, Author, "Hormone Balance: A Matter of Life & Health" and an Arbonne Regional Vice President.© 2011 Wisconsin Christian News. All Rights Reserved.

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