Dow Chemical and DuPont, the same corporations that brought misery and death to millions around the world through Agent Orange, are now the driving forces behind the promotion of soy as a food for humans. They are financing anti-meat and anti-milk campaigns aimed largely at those concerned about animal welfare and the environment, trying to convince them that imitations such as “soymilk” are not only healthier than the real thing, but better for the earth too.
There is no evidence that consuming soy products can improve health, reduce environmental degradation or slow global warming. In fact, the evidence suggests quite the opposite.
The studies below regarding the effects of soy on health are eye-opening, particularly the review by the American Heart Association — which no longer supports the health claims about soy endorsed by the U.S. government.
Overall risks and benefits of soy assessed
Latest review by American Heart Association
Soy inhibits iron absorption
Poor iron bioavailability
Poor calcium bioavailability
Calcium and zinc absorbed better from milk than from soy — even without phytates
Soy provides no benefits with respect to heart disease risk
Soy causes bladder cancer
Soy isoflavones during pregnancy increase breast cancer risk in female offspring
High levels of cadmium in soy formula
Soy linked to peanut allergy and increased risk for asthma
Whole milk vs. soy beverage — asthma risk
Persistent sexual arousal syndrome associated with increased soy intake
Genistein: Does it prevent or promote breast cancer?
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
If you were to carefully review the thousands of studies published on soy, I strongly believe you too would reach the conclusion that any possible benefits of consuming soy are FAR outweighed by the well documented risks.
Now, I’m not against all forms of soy. Properly fermented products like natto and tempeh have been consumed for centuries and do not wreak havoc in your body like unfermented soy products do. For example, the enzyme nattokinase—derived from natto–is a safer, more powerful option than aspirin to dissolve blood clots, and has been used safely for more than two decades.
Unfortunately, many Americans still believe that unfermented and processed soy products like soy milk, soy cheese, soy burgers and soy ice cream are good for them.
85 Percent of Consumers Believe the Lies About Soy
The rise of soy as a health food is in large part due to highly successful marketing to otherwise health conscious Americans who set the trend. According to the survey Consumer Attitudes About Nutrition 2008 (by the United Soybean Board), 85 percent of consumers now perceive soy products as healthy.
The survey also found that consumers:
rank soybean oil among the top three healthy oils, with 70 percent recognizing soy oil as a healthy oil, and
depend on soybean oil, commonly sold as vegetable oil, as one of their two most frequent cooking oils
This is a tragic case of shrewd marketing of misinformation and outright lies taking root among the masses, which will likely take some time to undo.
Ever since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a health claim for soy foods in 1999 (which said diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease), soy sales have skyrocketed. In the years between 2000 and 2007, food manufacturers in the U.S. introduced over 2,700 new foods with soy as an ingredient, including 161 new products introduced in 2007 alone.
This has resulted in a booming multi-billion dollar business. From 1992 to 2007, soy food sales increased from a paltry $300 million to nearly $4 billion, according to the Soyfoods Association of North America.
However, the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nonprofit nutrition education foundation, submitted a petition to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in January of this year, asking them to retract its heart-health claim from soy in light of the inconsistent and contradictory evidence showing benefits, and its many proven health risks.
What’s So Wrong With Soy?
Unlike the Asian culture, where people eat small amounts of whole soybean products, western food processors separate the soybean into two golden commodities–protein and oil. And there is nothing natural or safe about these products.
Says Dr. Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story,
“Today’s high-tech processing methods not only fail to remove the anti-nutrients and toxins that are naturally present in soybeans but leave toxic and carcinogenic residues created by the high temperatures, high pressure, alkali and acid baths and petroleum solvents.”
Dr. Daniel also points out the findings of numerous studies reviewed by her and other colleagues — that soy does not reliably lower cholesterol, and in fact raises homocysteine levels in many people, which has been found to increase your risk of stroke, birth defects, and yes: heart disease.
Other common health problems linked to a high-soy diet include:
Thyroid problems, including weight gain, lethargy, malaise, fatigue, hair loss, and loss of libido
Premature puberty and other developmental problems in babies, children and adolescents
Weakened immune system
Severe, potentially fatal food allergies
Most soy, perhaps about 80 percent or more, is also genetically modified, which adds its own batch of health concerns.
Despite these findings, many people still want to believe the hype, thinking that these studies must somehow be wrong. But the content of soy itself should be a clue. For example, non-fermented soy products contain:
Phytoestrogens (isoflavones) genistein and daidzein, which mimic and sometimes block the hormone estrogen
Phytates, which block your body’s uptake of minerals
Enzyme Inhibitors, which hinder protein digestion
Hemaggluttin, which causes red blood cells to clump together and inhibits oxygen take-up and growth
High amounts of omega-6 fat, which is pro-inflammatory
You’re Consuming Soy Whether You’re Buying “Soy Products” or Not
Even if you know better than to gulp down large amounts of soy milk, slabs of tofu, and other soy snacks, you are still consuming soy if you’re eating processed food, in the form of soybean oil and lecithin. So depending on your dietary habits, your (unfermented) soy consumption could really add up.
In fact, Dr. Joseph Hibbeln at the National Institutes of Health told CNN.com he estimates that soybeans, usually in the form of oil, account for 10 percent of the average person’s total calories in the United States! When you consider that 90 percent of the money Americans spend on food goes toward processed food, this amount of “accidental” soy intake is not surprising.
As a side note, I’d like to make a quick statement here to address some of my readers’ concerns about my reduced CoQ 10 supplement, ubiquinol, which also contain soy bean oil.
Unfortunately, the reduced CoQ 10 (ubiquinol) – which is the optimal form of CoQ 10 that your body needs, especially if you’re over 25 – is only produced by a multi-billion dollar Japanese pharmaceutical company that holds ALL the world patents on it. Hence, there’s no way to replace the soy, even though that would have been my preference.
However, as in all things, moderation is key. If I thought there were ANY significant health risks from consuming this small amount of soy oil, then I would not personally take two a day – which I do. I do however avoid all processed forms of soy products, and severely limit my intake of other unfermented soy, which is easy to do by simply avoiding processed and “fast” foods.
Which Soy Foods Should be Avoided … and How do You Avoid Them?
Because soy is so pervasive in the U.S. food supply, avoiding it is not an easy task.
The best way to completely avoid soy in the food supply is to buy whole foods and prepare them yourself. This may also be your only option if you’ve developed a soy allergy and need to eliminate soy from your diet entirely.
If you still prefer to buy readymade and packaged products, for whatever reason, Dr. Daniel offers a free Special Report, “Where the Soys Are,” on her Web site. It lists the many “aliases” that soy might be hiding under in ingredient lists — words like “boullion,” “natural flavor” and “textured plant protein.”
Which Soy Foods DO Have Health Benefits?
The few types of soy that ARE healthy are all fermented varieties. After a long fermentation process, the phytic acid and antinutrient levels of the soybeans are reduced, and their beneficial properties — such as the creation of natural probiotics — become available to your digestive system.
The fermentation process also greatly reduces the levels of dangerous isoflavones, which are similar to estrogen in their chemical structure, and can interfere with the action of your own estrogen production.
So if you want to eat soy that is actually good for you, following are all healthy options:
Natto, fermented soybeans with a sticky texture and strong, cheese-like flavor. It’s loaded with nattokinase, a very powerful blood thinner. Natto is actually a food I eat regularly, as it is the highest source of vitamin K2 on the planet and has a very powerful beneficial bacteria, bacillus subtilis. It can usually be found in any Asian grocery store.
Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake with a firm texture and nutty, mushroom-like flavor.
Miso, a fermented soybean paste with a salty, buttery texture (commonly used in miso soup).
Soy sauce: traditionally, soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans, salt and enzymes, however be wary because many varieties on the market are made artificially using a chemical process.
I have been reading more often about the risks of soy. When my daughter was a baby her doctor was trying to push the soy formula. I’m glad I didn’t listen.
How Safe is Soy Infant Formula?
New research suggests high concentrations of manganese found in soybean-based baby formula can lead to brain damage in infants and altered behaviors in adolescents.
Dr. Francis Crinella, clinical professor of pediatrics at UC-Irvine, and Trinh Tran, a graduate researcher at the UC-Davis Department of Animal Studies, have described how the soybean plant lifts up manganese in the soil and concentrates it so that its use in soy-based infant formula can result in as many as 200 times the level found in natural breast milk.
These and other experts believe that such high concentrations could pose a threat to the immature metabolic systems of babies up to 6 months of age.
The size of the market for soy-based infant formula is held closely, and none of the producers contacted by Insight would reveal sales figures. An independent expert estimates the market for all infant formula to be about $3 billion, with soy-based formula accounting for about $750 million of that, having doubled in the last 10 years.
The best-selling brand is Isomil (Ross Products Division of Abbott Laboratories), followed by Enfamil ProSobee (Mead Johnson), Nursoy (Wyeth-Ayerst) and Alsoy (Carnation).
According to Crinella and Tran, the discovery of potential harm from such products began in 1980 when a federal agency then called the Food and Nutrition Board established safe and acceptable values for manganese in adults, toddlers and infants.
Permissible levels for the three age groups ranged from 2.5 to 3 mg per day for adults, 1 to 1.5 mg per day for toddlers and 0.5 to 1 mg per day for infants under 6 months. This job now is handled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which today permits 0.6 mg per day for infants, 120 times the amount found in mother’s milk.
The FDA says that in the next few months it will lower the guidelines.
Ruth Welch, an FDA spokeswoman, confirms that a report will recommend a minimum of only 0.005 mg of manganese a day and no maximum for infants up to age 6 months.
Despite government assurances of safety at the recommended levels, the professional literature shows that in 1983 Phillip Collipp, a pediatric physician at Nassau County [N.Y.] Medical Center, tested infant formula for manganese in popular soy brands, including Isomil, ProSobee and Nursoy, purchased locally. He published data showing that they contained from 0.2 mg to 1 mg per quart. Later that year, Drs. Bo Lönnerdal and Carl Keen of the UC-Davis Department of Nutrition tested formula taken from pharmacy shelves worldwide.
They found higher manganese concentrations in soy formulas, ranging from 0.4 mg to 2.2 mg; the mean value of 1.2 mg vastly exceeded the infinitesimal 0.005 mg found in mother’s breast milk.
After the research by Collipp, Lönnerdal and Keen, nutritional scientists worldwide reported that newborn babies, in symbiosis with their mothers during the first weeks, absorbed most of the manganese in breast milk. The tiny amounts the baby suckles a dozen times a day appear to function as a catalyst for more than 50 biochemical reactions. This suggests a newborn’s digestive system is superbly attuned to absorb the infinitesimal levels of manganese in mother’s milk, and that, in fact, it is essential to the development process.
At least some of this soy formula, which tested at up to 200 times the manganese of breast milk clearly has the potential to overload the infant’s little body.
Lönnerdal says the baby’s immature liver cannot handle the manganese load by excreting the excess. In newborns, ingested manganese rises to high levels in the blood plasma and red blood cells, then permeates the liver, kidneys and other soft tissues of the body, including the brain. He believes, however, that by the time of weaning, when the infant normally consumes solid food, it can metabolize manganese.
Crinella calculated that by the age of 8 months an infant fed soy formula daily absorbs approximately 1.1 mg of manganese above metabolic need. “A significant amount, about 8 percent, is deposited in a brain region vulnerable to threat of manganese attack,” he says.
Six years ago, tragic incidents in two London hospitals, the Hospital for Sick Children and Queen Elizabeth’s Hospital for Children, alerted the medical community to the vulnerability of sick babies to manganese attacks on the brain. Suffering from liver disease, the babies had received nutrient solutions containing recommended amounts of manganese through an intravenous tube. The manganese had no greater concentration than in soy formula and was considered safe by government standards, but after a few months the infant brains showed damage.
Of 57 babies receiving “safe” amounts of manganese, two fell ill with movement disorders and six suffered damage to their basal ganglia when examined by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Also, Crinella has done extensive studies on the effect of manganese in adolescents. His research detected relatively high levels of manganese in the scalp hair of hyperactive children when compared with matched control subjects.
Crinella at first was puzzled by the high manganese levels in hyperactive children. The only exposure of his subjects had to be through diet, yet California has historic low levels of manganese in its soil, air and water. Because adolescents metabolize at least 97 percent of manganese ingested, the exposure had to have occurred earlier in life, possibly from manganese in baby food, or (as his research proceeded further) soy-based infant formula. Could elevated manganese be a clue to the current epidemic of adolescent violence sweeping the nation?
Crinella did a study with rats and manganese supplementation and the results were clear-cut: Rats given 0.05 mg. of manganese daily for 18 days in the amount comparable with the manganese in breast milk did as well as the control group given no manganese. Rats given supplemental manganese five times higher at 0.25 mg daily suffered a precipitous decline in basal-ganglia dopamine of 48 percent. The rats dosed daily with the highest amount, 0.50 mg, had a plunge in dopamine by a staggering 63 percent.
“The brain undergoes a tremendous proliferation of neutrons, dentrites and synapses during the first months of life,” Crinella says. “The brain especially is vulnerable in early life precisely because such rampant growth is taking place, and at that time intrusions by potentially toxic substances like manganese perturbing the emerging neural organization can exert long-term effects. Manganese ingested during a period of rapid brain growth and deposited in the critical basal ganglia region may affect behavior during puberty when powerful stresses are un- leashed on the dopamine neurons, and altered behavioral patterns appear.”
These altered behavioral patterns during late childhood and early adolescence, according to Crinella, may be diagnosed as hyperactivity with attentional deficit – or perhaps as “manganese-toxicity syndrome.”
Everett Hodges, founder of the Violence Research Foundation, thinks Crinella’s case is overwhelming. “Criminals ages 16 and 17 years old today, some of them born to poor mothers between 1983 and 1984, could have received from the government soy formula with enough manganese to disrupt growing brains, and this may be why adolescents have difficulty restraining aggressive impulses now.”
Dr. Stanley van den Noort, a member of the foundation’s board, is former dean of the UC-Irvine College of Medicine. He says, “I think the data presented at the conference are convincing that manganese is a neurotoxin. Newborn infants exposed to high levels of manganese may be predisposed to neurological problems. We should exercise strong caution in the use of soy-based formula around the world.”
Naomi Baumslag, clinical professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical College and president of the Woman’s Public Health Network, tells Insight, “Only 50 percent of newborns today suckle at the mother’s breast even once. After six months, the number has fallen to only one mother in five. Often mothers for the sake of convenience plunk soy bottles into the infant’s mouth. Why do so many mothers in the United States imagine they have given birth to a baby soybean instead of a human child?”
Baumslag goes further: “There is a great deal of scientific evidence that soy formula can be damaging to newborns, quite aside from the manganese.” She says a tablespoon of soy formula can be dangerous both for what it does not have and for what it has.
That spoonful may be deficient in linoleic and oleic essential fatty acids, DHA-brain-growth factor, epidermal growth factor, lactoferrin, casomorphin and immune factors such as IgA, neutrophils, macrophages, T-cells, B-cells and interferon – all provided by the mother in breast milk to defend her baby.
On the other hand, Baumslag says, that spoonful does contain phytates, protease factors, soy lectins, enormous amounts of phytoproteins, and genistein and daidzen, both moderate estrogen mimics in humans.
“Why deprive the newborn infants of perfectly good breast milk – a nutritionally superior food in every way for the baby – and feed them soy beans?” Baumslag asks.
Dr. Mercola’s Comments:
This is a new one for me with soy formula. I was not aware of its elevated manganese levels. I have known of the increased aluminum levels in soy.
The other significant issue are the estrogens in soy. A soy-fed baby receives the equivalent of five birth control pills’ worth of estrogen every day. These babies’ isoflavone levels were found to be from 13,000 to 22,000 times higher than in non-soy fed infants.