Soy – The Unhealthiest “Health Food”

Fresh Soy Beans

The soy industry started to plant soy to extract the oil from it and soy oil became a very large industry. With this soy oil a lot of soy protein residue was left over as a by-product, and since they couldn’t feed it to animals, except in small amounts, they had to find another market which, of course, was humans. This was the industry’s way of making a profit on a waste product. Millions of dollars were spent on advertising and intense lobbying of the FDA, which resulted in about 74% of U.S. consumers believing that soy products were healthy.

Traditional Versus Modern Soy Foods

Many people question how soy can be dangerous when it has been consumed safely in Asia for thousands of years. It is important to distinguish between traditional and modern soy preparation. In Asia, traditional soy foods were consumed in small amounts, usually as a fermented condiment. Traditional fermented soy foods include miso, soy sauce, tempeh, and natto. Tofu was prepared by a precipitation process that gets rid of some of the anti-nutrients, and tofu was often then fermented. Fermentation gets rid of the phytic acid and other digestive inhibitors in soy. Soybeans contain many naturally occurring toxins. Modern soy foods are very different. Most are made with soy protein isolate (SPI), which is a protein-rich powder extracted as a waste product of soy oil manufacturing. Although SPI is added to many foods, it was never granted GRAS status, meaning “Generally Recognized as Safe”. The FDA only granted GRAS status to SPI for use as a binder in cardboard boxes. During the processing of soy, many additional toxins are formed, including nitrates (which are carcinogens) and a toxin called lysinoalanine.

The Dangers of Soy Infant Formula

Despite all of these problems SPI is the basic ingredient of soy infant formulas. Infants on soy formula can take a dangerously high level of soy isoflavones (soy estrogens). This can mean ten times the level that can cause thyroid suppression in adults after three months, and eight times the level that can cause hormonal changes in adults after just one month. Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000-22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula. Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day!

Impact of Soy on Fertility

In 1992, the Swiss Health Service estimated that women consuming the equivalent of two cups of soy milk per day provides the estrogenic equivalent of one birth control pill. How do you think that impacts women who are trying to conceive?

Furthermore, a study at the Harvard Public School of Health in 2008 found that men who consumed the equivalent of one cup of soy milk per day had a 50% lower sperm count than men who didn’t eat soy.  You get the message. You want to have babies, cut out the soy.

Check out the adverse effects of unfermented soy products:

  • Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic disorders
  • Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women
  • Soy phytoestrogens are potent anti-thyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer
  • Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein
  • Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and additional amounts are added to many soy foods
  • Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys

Perhaps the most disturbing of soy’s ill effects on health has to do with its phytoestrogens, which can mimic the effects of the female hormone, estrogen. These phytoestrogens have been found to have deleterious effects on various human tissues, and drinking only two glasses of soy milk daily for one month has enough of the chemical to alter a woman’s menstrual cycle.

As I mentioned, soy is particularly problematic for infants and it would be very wise to avoid giving them soy-derived products of any kind.

In order to derive some benefit from soy, consuming only fermented soy products – such as organic miso, organic tempeh, soy sauce, or natto – is the only way to accomplish it. This is because the phytic acid, which is inherent in soy beans, has been neutralized in the fermentation process. Consuming fermented soy is very beneficial in recolonizing the friendly bacteria in the large intestine, which allows for greater general assimilation of foods and nutrients.

Yours in health,

Rick J. Bernard, L.Ac.

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