Myths and misconceptions about soy…!!!

Soy has long been considered a highly nutritious legume and an excellent source of protein by renowned nutritionists and clinical nutritionists. Soybeans contain all the essential amino acids and an admirable number of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), including calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9 and C. In soy we also find fiber and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The content of these components varies in different soy products, and is highest in soybeans, soy milk, tofu and tempeh.

Despite the many health benefits of soy, there are widespread misconceptions and myths about the “dangers” of soy consumption that are presented as facts. Let’s take a look at some of these myths.

All soybeans are genetically modified (GM)
The largest consumers of commercially grown GM soybeans, both in the U.S. and globally, are farm animals. GMOs are genetically modified organisms and their safety in human nutrition is hotly debated, and many European countries have already banned their use. While long-term studies and reliable data on the health effects of GMOs are not yet available, we know that they are present throughout our food chain. Soybean is just one of many plant species that is mostly genetically modified. Currently (in 2013, op. Cit.), 81% of all soybeans in the world are GM and about 85% of all GM soybeans are used as food for farm animals. Farm animals that eat GS soy build it into the body as a source of protein, so in slaughterhouses or dairies, GM soy does not disappear, but ends up on your plate.

Despite the staggering percentage of GM soybeans, we cannot claim that all soybeans are like that. Soy products that are eaten directly by people and are available in our stores, e.g. tofu, tempeh and soy milk are genetically modified and labeled as such.

While soy does not contain estrogen, it does contain food of animal origin. Many consumers are aware that animals raised for meat and milk are often given synthetic growth hormones. However, they are not aware of the fact that meat and cow’s milk also contain naturally occurring estrogens – and this also applies to “free-range” animals and animals from “organic” agriculture. In addition, meat, milk and eggs also contain phytoestrogens, as they are present in all our food, both plant and animal, so we cannot completely avoid them by excluding soy from our diet.

Soy causes cancer
The erroneous information that soy is associated with cancer stems from misconceptions about the presence of phytoestrogens in soy. Phytoestrogens and estrogens. Estrogen and testosterone are steroid hormones that are naturally present in people of both sexes as well as in the animals that humans eat. Their job is to regulate sexual function and secondary sexual cues, and to regulate asexual cellular functions. Estrogen therefore has beneficial functions for humans, but it can also naturally accelerate cell proliferation, cause excessive cell proliferation in high doses, and thus increase the risk of certain cancers. Hormone replacement therapy is associated with tumor growth in menopausal women, especially when taking estrogen alone.

The term “phytoestrogen” is only a nickname for many naturally occurring compounds in plants that are structurally similar to mammalian estrogen and have a weak estrogenic (weakly mimic estrogen) or antiestrogenic (block the effects of estrogen). The metabolism and action of phytoestrogens are extremely complex and vary between individuals. Concerns about the link between soy and cancer stem from the fact that soy and soy products contain phytoestrogens (specifically isoflavones) in varying amounts (depending on the preparation) that react with the estrogen receptor. In humans, there are two types of estrogen receptors, alpha and beta. Alpha receptors are distributed throughout the body, while beta receptors are limited to the ovaries, prostate, lungs and perineum. Isoflavones, like estrogen, bind to alpha and beta receptors (preferably beta receptors), but do not have the estrogenic effect of promoting tumor growth. On the contrary, isoflavones have been shown to protect against hormone-induced cancers.

The association between soy consumption and a lower risk of developing premenopausal breast cancer has been clearly demonstrated. In other words, higher soy intake is associated with lower incidence of breast cancer. However, there is currently no major clinical study examining the impact of phytoestrogen intake on tumor growth in patients who already have cancer. To date, few studies have been performed on small samples and the methods for obtaining the results have been very different, so conclusions are not yet possible.

Lessons from Asia
Soy has been a staple food in Asian cultures for centuries. In Asia, the incidence of coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, ischemic stroke, hormone-related cancers, osteoporosis, postmenopausal hip fracture, diabetes and obesity is significantly lower than in Western countries. However, when the inhabitants of certain parts of Asia began to eat a diet more similar to the West, they began to suffer from similar diseases as the Westerners. This is not surprising, as our lifestyle and diet have a major and direct impact on our health.

Let’s look at an example of a study of centenarians from Okinawa that analyzed the health and eating habits of more than 900 centenarians (individuals aged 100 or over) from the Japanese island of Okinawa. Persons in the 8th, 9th and 10th decades of life were also assessed. The Japanese Ministry of Health has been keeping a nationwide family census since 1870 and updating it every 5 years. Okinawa has the highest centennial population density in the world. Traditional life in Okinawa includes regular physical activity, low BMI (body mass index) and high intake of fruits, vegetables and soy. The elderly on this island are healthier and have a much lower incidence of cancer (breast, ovarian, prostate and bowel) compared to the elderly living in the US, and even compared to the elderly from other parts of Japan. Elderly people from Okinawa also have a much lower incidence of dementia, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease.

The myth of men’s breasts
The myth of men’s breasts is another very widespread myth without a scientific basis. Gynecomastia is a medical term for developed breasts in men. Sex hormones are responsible for the development of the sexual organs in the fetus and for secondary sexual signs. The legend of male breasts is therefore probably associated with confusion because people do not distinguish between estrogen and phytoestrogen. As already mentioned, phytoestrogen is not estrogen. If that were the case, then a lot of men would need bras.

In fact, clinical studies in men have shown that isoflavones do not affect testosterone or estrogen levels. Even when men ingested far more isoflavones than a typical Asian consumes, they did not cause any of the symptoms otherwise characteristic of women.

Soy Hysteria and the Weston A. Prica Foundation
Soybean hysteria and the Weston A. Price Foundation (WAPF) are inseparable. Many myths about soy have emerged as a direct result of misinformation spread by the WAPF through its relentless anti-soy campaigns. WAPF, registered as a non-profit organization, is a multimillion-dollar operation that lobbies for raw milk and beef. Its members (often farmers) pay contributions and in return WAPF promotes their products. One of WAPF’s ongoing strategies to promote livestock interests is to discredit soy and veganism in general. Sales of soy products rose from $ 500 million to $ 5.2 billion between 1992 and 2011. Soybean sales are growing exponentially, potentially jeopardizing the products WAPF is trying to promote. In response to this, WAPF regularly publishes articles on the alleged dangers of soy consumption and cites clinical and medical journals to make the articles seem more credible.

Let’s look at an example. In a recent blog post on the WAPF website, board member Kaayla Daniel interpreted an article in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in a way that achieved the WAPF’s goal of blackening soy. On July 10, 2013, JAMA published an article “The effect of soy protein isolate consumption on the biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer after surgical removal of the prostate.” The study was well performed (with a randomly selected sample and double-blind). Her goal was to determine whether soy consumption affects the health of patients being treated for prostate cancer. To assess the response, oncologists measured PSA (prostate-specific antigen) in the blood at specific time intervals. Not surprisingly, soy consumption in patients who have eaten a lifetime of foods rich in animal fats and proteins, pesticides, preservatives and antibiotics, and in which advanced cancer has been detected, had no effect on biochemical markers. The study could not draw solid conclusions, perhaps only that soy consumption in advanced prostate cancer does not reduce biochemical markers. However, WAPF distorted the results, selectively interpreted the study, and denigrated soy.

It is also worth mentioning the fact that dr. Weston A. Price (1870–1948) a dentist, not a doctor of medicine or a nutritionist. He studied the teeth of primitive cultures and, based on observations of tooth decay, formulated dietary recommendations for modern society.

Which soy products are the healthiest
In discussions of soy, it is often mentioned that only fermented soy products are safe and healthy, as Asians are said to eat mostly with them. However, this statement is not true, as Asians do not basically eat fermented soy products. Nutritionist Ginny Messina came to the following conclusion: “In Japan, half of fermented soy products are consumed, half of fermented products (miso and natto) and half of tofu and dried soybeans. In Shanghai, most ingested soy products are unfermented, with tofu and soy milk predominating. Even in Indonesia, where fermented tempeh is considered a national dish, people consume about half of unfermented soy products, such as e.g. tofu. “

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