Uncovering The Truth About Soy

Since soy is a controversial topic, I thought it would be perfect for this week’s blog post. One of my friends told me that soy was basically the devil. And you know my vegan ass eats soy, so I wanted to know just how bad it is. I’m sure you’ve heard that if men even blink at a block of tofu, they will grow boobs bigger than mine. And some women think they won’t be able to conceive if they eat soy. Some people praise the plant-based protein, while others run from it. So, is soy even safe to consume? 

Realistically, soy can be both good and bad. Over the years they have been processed and genetically modified in ways that can be potentially dangerous to the body. These genetically modified versions were called “roundup ready”, which were designed to withstand the use of herbicides while increasing yields. The United States produces the most amount of soybeans in the world and 97% isn’t even used for human consumption. The majority of GMO soy is fed to animals, however it might be a good idea to stick to organic soy products if you try to avoid GMOs. 

Man Boobies 

One of the reasons why soy is such a hot topic is because it contains estrogen like chemicals called isoflavones. However, it’s important to remember that isoflavones aren’t estrogen. Men are afraid that soy consumption can increase estrogen levels and decrease testosterone levels, leading to man boobs and a squeaky voice. 

The rumors stem from two case studies involving one 19- year old man who reported enlarged breasts and the other 60- year old experienced erectile dysfunction. One test subject was actually consuming 3 quarts of soy milk per day, which is a lot for one person. But one study used even higher amounts of isoflavones and proved soy wasn’t a problem for most men and had zero effect on male reproduction. 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but a large percentage of men will develop man boobs at some point in their life. This statistic doesn’t surprise me knowing the fact that ¾ of the us population is overweight. And say maybe you are overweight or obese, your testosterone levels are going to be lower compared to someone at a healthy weight. I don’t think we should demonize soy because you blame your insecurities on phytoestrogens. 

Breast cancer 

High amounts of estrogen in the body have been linked to higher risks of breast cancer. The rumors that soy also increases these risks come from people mistaking isoflavones with estrogen. Although isoflavones have estrogen like characteristics, they also act as antiestrogens, blocking estrogen from binding together. This could in theory, prevent the risks of breast cancer. This preventative effect depends on the quality of soy, the age at which a person starts consuming soy, and other factors. 

Some studies have shown that soy can help reduce breast cancer, however the bulk of the research involving humans show that consuming soy does not have a negative impact on health. Another reason for the confusion can be blamed on studies that used animals as test subjects. Humans and animals metabolize isoflavones differently. The test subjects were also injected with extremely high doses instead of being absorbed and digested naturally in the body. comparison to someone eating a diet moderate in soy, that is an extremely high dose. 

Infertility

People became concerned about isoflavones when they observed sheep who ate large amounts of red clover had issues with reproduction. Red clover contains phytoestrogens that are also in soy. Remember, animals and humans metabolize phytoestrogens differently. According to one study, men who eat soy foods may have lower sperm concentration. However, the study involved only 99 men and most men who had lower concentrations were overweight. It’s likely that the extra fat these subjects had increased estrogen levels, which causes a decrease in sperm concentration. One theory is that obesity caused the men to be more sensitive to the phytoestrogens found in soy. In Asian countries, diets high in soy are very common and have not been shown to affect fertility. The bulk of clinical studies do not suggest that isoflavones negatively impacts reproduction. In fact, one study showed that consuming soy can be beneficial to women going through infertility treatment. 

We can take away from all the information that soy is safe to consume in moderation. Soy actually has so many benefits like it’s cancer fighting properties, omega 3s to lower the risk of heart disease, and full of vitamins. The pros absolutely outweigh the false claims about this plant-based food. There’s nothing wrong with a little mock meat or protein powder on occasion, but it might be best to stick to quality sources of soy in your diet like tofu, tempeh, and edamame. 

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Peace & Love,

Heather

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References: 

Phytoestrogens-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/25160742/

Soy-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5188409/

Soy and man boobs-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20378106/

Case studies unfavorable to soy and the (enlarge breast and erectile dysfunction-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/18558591/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/21353476/

Case study showing high doses of soy doesn’t affect most men-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/15231450/

Soy and breast cancer-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2981011/#__sec5title

Estrogen and breast cancer-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4775086/

Soy and infertility-

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2721724/

https://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/news/20080723/soy-foods-sperm-concentration-link

https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/Medical-memo-Soy-and-sperm

https://www.acam.org/blogpost/1092863/185750/Soy-and-Fertility-in-Men

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/19524224/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/28844822/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/20484551/