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Reader Questions Soy Benefits: “One Man’s Meat is Another Man’s Poison”

Written by Wellness Club on June 11, 2008 – 2:06 pm -

Michael writes to comment:

All of my other “Natural Health” information areas (including the book , “The Whole Soy Story”) are stressing the detriments of soy, so I am surprised to see such a positive review (of course, with some caveats). This statement from “The Dangers of Soy” actually contradicts what you have stated: Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.”
What’s up??? I usually trust what you have to say, but I have a hard time believing that soy is good for us!!!

Dr. Myatt replies:

Hi Michael:

Your question brings up several good points that I’d like to address. The first one is taken directly from my “Read This First” letter found on the footer of every page of my website. I’m betting about 3 people have read this in the 14 years I’ve been in business, but here’s the “short course”:

“Also keep in mind that although my advice and statements are supported by scientific research, experts do not always agree on the meaning and interpretation of research data. Another physician might look at the same information and draw a different conclusion. This is why it makes good sense to get a second (and even a third and fourth!) medical opinion…”
Read the full letter here.

Second, I believe the “black and white” argument about soy is completely misguided. Some folks totally vilify soy (as in the book you quote), while others make it sound so great that you’d think it should be added to the public drinking water supply!

My opinion? Soy is neither a terrible substance nor a “miracle food” that everyone should take. As with many foods, it has “pros” and “cons.”

Soy has estrogenic effects. That is, soy acts as a weak estrogen. Is this bad? Ask a post-menopausal female suffering from hot flashes if using a weak (and therefore presumably safer) form of estrogen is bad and she’ll probably look at you like you just got off a spaceship from Mars. Estrogenic effects have a role to play in medical practice, especially when they are safer alternatives to more potent estrogens. A number of studies have shown that soy helps prevent and may even be effective for treatment of hormone-related cancers. Please visit our webpage on soy for a complete list of references — 45 in total.

Soy has also been shown to help lower cardiovascular disease risk (a claim allowed by the FDA), lower cholesterol levels, improve bone mineral density, and improve insulin sensitivity. Again, all of this is fully referenced on the above-mentioned page.

Now, is estrogen good for babies? Hello? I think not. And for men? Sometimes in prostate cancer it is useful, but overall, increasing estrogen effects is not generally desirable in men.

Further, as I have previously mentioned, unrefined soy (such as soy protein powder and soybeans) acts as a goitrogen and can lower thyroid function. Soy is also allergenic to many people, especially in this form. Fermented soy products such as tofu, miso, and tempeh are better tolerated.

As for soy lowering fertility, this has not been a problem in Asian countries with the highest intakes of soy! Again, if someone is eating enough soy to lower thyroid hormone production, this can cause infertility. (low thyroid is associated with infertility). This is easy to monitor with a simple blood test.

My summary: “Soy: not all good, not all bad.” It depends on the person and their unique cirumstance. Please be sure to take a peek at our website page on soy for a boat-load of references that reveal some of the “positives” of soy and it’s derivatives.

P.S. You’ve got a book that vilifies soy? (There are a number of them).
But here are some titles that sing soy’s praises:
Soy One Choice For Menopausal Health, Ari Babaknia, M.D.
Soy The Right Protein For Improving Your Health, Ari Babaknia, M.D.
The Soy Zone, Dr. Barry Sears (author of The Zone Diet)
Soy for Health: The Definitive Medical Guide, Stephen Holt, M.D.
Earl Mindell’s Soy Miracle, Earl Mindell, pH.D

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