Thursday, October 9, 2008

Soy Overload

There are some foods Americans just eat too much of. Wheat, milk, corn, and refined white sugar are prominent examples. Most of us eat each of these every day as processed food ingredients. Eating the same thing every day, even in moderate amounts, presents far greater risks of subtle toxic effects and undetected food allergies than if you eat something just occasionally. It is perfectly fine, most experts think, to eat the same thing two or three days in a row, but it is safer not to eat the same thing week after week. Another food we get too much of is soy, and the risks associated with soy are becoming more clear all the time.

Through the 1990s, soy was a fad “health food.” The fad faded as safety questions started to pile up. I was always skeptical about the health claims associated with soy, knowing that much of the early research that claimed health benefits for soy was done by the same people who claimed that tobacco use was safe. We have since sorted out the most egregious lies about tobacco, so what happens when we sort out the lies about soy? It is becoming abundantly clear that although a few of the health benefits of soy are real, they are smaller than we thought, so that the damage done by soy greatly outweighs its benefits.

Joseph Mercola this week collected recent research and analysis on soy. Taken together, the evidence is so one-sided that the title he chose for his article is “The Evidence Against Soy.”

Most damaging to what is left of the soy fad is an American Heart Association Science Advisory that found that soy has only a trivial effect on cholesterol and no measurable effect on other biomarkers for which a benefit from soy had been claimed. No significant beneficial effect was found even when excessively large amounts of soy were consumed. People ate so much soy in some studies that, for example, the soy alone exceeded the ideal levels of total daily protein.

Many of the health risks associated with soy are now well established. It blocks absorption of various nutrients and neutralizes essential body chemicals, creating imbalances and deficiencies that have caused widespread diseases including birth defects. All this was the result of people eating too much soy, often in the mistaken belief that soy was a good thing to eat. The evidence against soy does not suggest that everyone should avoid soy entirely. Rather, it suggests that soy in its unfermented forms should be classified as a junk food, to be eaten sparingly and not used as a substitute for real food.