The Health Dangers of Soy
What's our "beef" with soy?
Soy is often touted as a health food, but this is a drastic misrepresentation. Soy is a huge industry with many people standing to profit from its continued production, sale, and consumption. It is hidden in everything from cereals, snacks, and bread crumbs to protein powders, meal replacements, and imitation dairy products. It is commonly used not just for flavor, but for the addictive properties of monosodium glutamate (MSG) that occurs in many forms of soy. The FDA has a long history of approving unhealthy or dangerous products, so it is up to each of us to educate ourselves on common "landmines" to avoid in the food industry! That's a tall claim to make, but we can back it up.
Sometimes people ask us, "Isn't everything harmful in SOME way? Is it really that big of a deal?" According to the overwhelming majority of research... it is. Some of the things soy consumption is linked to include:
- Increased risk in many types of cancers
- Thyroid problems
- Premature puberty
- Reproductive disorders
- Kidney stones
- Brain dysfunction in babies and toddlers
- Endocrine disruption / interference with your natural estrogen levels
Soy also contains a high amount of compounds known as anti-nutrients (which can prevent the absorption of positive nutrients in a food), and the methods of processing soy do not adequately remove these. Soybeans are processed by dumping them into aluminum tanks and acid washing them, which can leach high levels of aluminum into the final soy product.
“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. Kaayla T. Daniel
There are some health benefits of soy, too, but the benefits do not outweigh the risks. One is example is that soy reduces your risk of colon cancer. This is a fact that is often mentioned by proponents of soy, but they will leave out information harmful to their goal - such as that soy increases your risk of 10 other types of cancers including thyroid and digestive cancers!
Soy in baby formulas:
Arguably, the most tragic way soy is used as a food is in soy based baby formulas. Some parents unknowingly feed this poison to their child because their baby is allergic to traditional formulas, or because they believe that this is a healthy option. This could not be further from the truth! See what experts have to say:
"Most soy formula has 80 times the amount of manganese as breast milk and can directly cause brain dysfunction. Additionally, there is the hormonal equivalent of 4-5 birth control pills in a daily dose of soy formula, which can cause significantly premature puberty and other sexual abnormalities, and an increased risk of cancer." -Dr. Joseph Mercola
"There is potential for certain individuals to consume levels of isoflavones in the range that could have goitrogenic effects. Most at risk appear to be infants fed soy formulas, followed by high soy users and those using isoflavone supplements." -Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick
Parents, it's not worth it! Soy is even more unfit for consumption by babies than it is by adults and there are many viable alternatives.
Are there any healthy forms of soy?
Yes, actually. Organic, fermented soy products have many health benefits and drastically reduced risks. A slow fermentation process significantly lowers the content of antinutrients, phytic acid, and dangerous isoflavones (chemically similar to estrogen) in soybeans. Without the anti-nutrients to prevent absorption of its beneficial nutrients, these fermented soy products can contain high level of vitamin K and may be acceptable to eat - but only when made ethically with a slow, natural fermentation process. Some of these relatively safe fermented soy products include miso, natto, and tempeh. Unfortunately, a tiny fraction of the soy that is consumed in the world falls into this category, and some soy products which are supposed to be traditionally fermented are processed chemically to shortcut the process.
In summary, if you care about your health you should avoid all non-organic, unfermented soy products. It is especially harmful to the health of infants and to individuals with pre-existing thyroid problems, reproductive disorders, or kidney stones.
New Zealand Medical Journal (Volume 113, Feb. 11, 2000)
Irvine, C. et al., "The Potential Adverse Effects of Soybean Phytoestrogens in Infant Feeding", New Zealand Medical Journal May 24, 1995, p. 318.
If you want to delve deeoper on this with analyses of current research on soy, with commentary from Doctor Kaaya T. Daniel, check out The Whole Soy Story. Dr. Daniel's Ph.D research focused on soy and she is considered to be an expert on the topic.