There is a lot of misinformation being circulated about “soy.” Much of it is based on bad science and speculation. Much of the completely baseless information is simply something that one person reads and then distributes to others (especially through emails!) without attempting to confirm the factuality of the information or is circulated by uninformed journalists just looking for a sensational story.
And some of it may apply to certain soy products, but not others. Keep in mind that a wide range of products are made from soy — everything from plastics, to industrial products, to tofu. Similarly, there are a wide-range of food products made from soy by widely varying processes. Just because these food products start with soy as the raw material doesn’t mean the end products necessarily have anything at all in common.
I agree with some of what is out there, but unfortunately many articles are extremely misleading and do a tremendous disservice to the health world.
Do your own research before believing everything you read on the internet. Many articles have a few over-generalized points made about “soy” that cause the uninformed to then be suspicious of all soy products. It is impossible to discuss every question raised but hopefully some of these statements will bring some clarity. I have compared articles on various soy products to Shaklee Protein (made by the #1 nutrition Company in the U.S.):
1. Some articles accuse the proponents of soy of “bad science,” saying that soy can even cause cancer. The fact is that their warnings are based on bad science.
Some will bring up something called phytates. Phytates are naturally present in almost all cereals, grains, and high fiber foods. Are we supposed to stop eating whole grains and high fiber foods? The reality is that you’d have to consume massive quantities for the phytates to have any adverse effect.
Some talk about trypsin inhibitors. Again, these are naturally found in many foods, not just soy — potatoes, peas, beans, peanuts, corn, whole grains, cereals. Again, you’d have to consume massive quantities for any adverse effect.
Most of these theories are based on test tube studies or studies with lab rats, but no adverse effect has ever been confirmed in humans consuming normal amounts of soy or other foods.
Ex. #1, a couple of studies have shown an increased occurrence of breast cancer in lab rates injected with soy isoflavones. As a result, I hear of a lot of “doctors” telling women to avoid soy. But the truth is that the amount of isoflavones injected into these rats was equivalent to a human woman consuming about 2000 servings of protein a day for 60 days or so. Would 2000 servings of protein per day cause an increase risk of breast cancer? Maybe. But no one could possibly do that. That would be drinking a full protein drink about every 45 seconds, 24 hours a day. It would also be over 200,000 calories per day, which would be far more dangerous than the soy isoflavones.
That is bad science — but it has a lot of people all stirred up.
Ex. #2, a few test tube studies have shown the possibility that soy may inhibit certain thyroid enzymes. Consequently, I have people telling me that their “doctor” told them to avoid soy because it might cause them thyroid problems. However, the possible interference that was observed in the test tube HAS NEVER been confirmed by ANY human study. In fact, several researchers who have tried to confirm this problem in humans have instead stated that soy does not appear to adversely impact adult thyroid function in humans.
Our personal experience has been that several people in our Shaklee group have actually been able to reduce or eliminate their thyroid medication that they had taken for years by using the Shaklee protein and other supplements!
2. Most articles speak very generally about “soy” products. But there is a very wide range of products made with soy by a wide range of processes. There is a huge difference in the content of these various products, from soy milk to tofu to the soy flakes used by Shaklee in our soy products. You cannot possibly lump all soy products together.
Ex. #1, soy beans, as well as members of the cabbage family and some other raw foods, contain substances in them called “pro-goitrogens” which stimulate the thyroid gland to enlarge and can cause goiter.
The soy flakes that Shaklee uses contains NO pro-goitrogens. The processing of the raw soy into the soy flakes used by Shaklee removes them.
Ex. #2, most soy products on the market use soy beans that have been washed with alcohol or other solvents. This destroys much of the isoflavone content and may leave some residues in the final product. The soy flakes Shaklee uses has only been washed with water, preserving the maximum nutrient content and preventing any contamination.
Ex. #3, a few years back the FDA did a study of the top 18 brands of protein supplements to determine the safety and effectiveness of various products that were available. This study was done without Shaklee’s knowledge. The FDA then published the results of their study. The measure they used at that time for indicating the efficiency with which the body utilized the protein in a product was the Protein Efficiency Rating or PER. The highest PER on their scale was 3.5. The FDA’s study actually found that the Shaklee Protein was far and away the most efficiently utilized supplement of the 18 brands that they studied. They listed Shaklee Protein as having a PER of “greater than 3.5” since 3.5 was the highest point on their scale. No other product received a “greater than 3.5” rating. Most averaged around 2.5, with some as low as 1.5.
Ex. #4, soy beans, as well as many other natural foods such as tomatoes, green peas and corn, have a naturally occurring form of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in them. There is no MSG in the soy flakes used by Shaklee.
3. Many articles try to cast suspicion on the hundreds of research studies that have shown positive health benefits to soy by saying that many were funded by the soy industry. It does not present any evidence, however, that any of these studies were somehow skewed or corrupted or that any negative outcomes have ever been covered up. There is nothing inherently wrong with people who produce a product wanting to find out what health benefits it provides.
The fact is that NO HUMAN STUDY has shown any harmful effects of soy on human health. Rather, hundreds of studies on humans have shown benefits or potential benefits. Not all of these positive studies have been funded by the soy industry.
4. Many articles try to explain away the differences in breast cancer and heart disease rates between Asian women who consume a diet high in soy and American women. Certainly, the difference cannot be necessarily attributed all to soy consumption by Asians, but neither can it be fully explained by the other differences in diet mentioned. With all that we now know about the isoflavones in soy, it is increasingly clear that they play a valuable role in preventing among Asians these major health problems which are so prevalent among Americans.
Conversely, if all that the article tries to portray as bad about soy were true, you would think that Asians would have a huge list of health problems consequently resulting from their high consumption of soy. The truth is that there is NO evidence that they have any health problems directly related to their high consumption of soy.
5. The final point I would like to make is that if you take a Creationist view, as Dr. Shaklee did, that all the various components within a food are there by design — rather than an evolutionary view that what is there is simply there by accident or chance — you have to consider that all these various components of soy are there by design and have purpose and that it all works together when taken in the total context of human metabolism and life.
It would be a terrible trick of the Creator to put all of these wonderful life-giving nutritional benefits that are well established into soy, only to then hide some deadly or destructive component there in among the mix. That doesn’t make good sense.