Thursday, May 11, 2006

What's wrong with soy?

Yesterday it was green tea, now the humble soy bean is under siege.

The LA Times reports that, "a crop of books and articles are now warning about the dangers, not benefits, of the bean." Among the concerns:
  • Soy supplements, which contain "estrogen-like isoflavones," may promote breast cancer
  • Thyroid function may be inhibited by soy
  • Reproductive problems in women -- like irregular menstrual cycles, ovulation problems and reduced fertility -- may be caused by soy (as shown in lab tests on mice)
  • In babies, soy formula "might possible possibly affect development of the brain and reproductive system."
  • For men, soy puts their sex drive at risk, may compromise muscle tone, raises estrogen levels and may ultimately lead to "man boobs"

Oh, the horror.

Debunked (or near-debunked) soy benefits, pointed out in the LA Times piece are the reducing breast cancer risks and fighting hot flashes.

However, the LA Times is quick to point out that some recent studies show promise for soy. For example, a National Institute of Health report found soy can "preserve bone in the lower part of the lumbar spine in post-menopausal women."

But what about the man boobs? Well, soy is high in isoflavones, a chemical that the LA Times refers to as "estrogen-like." So man boobs may be the risk that males take to get the most complete protein in the pea family, a whole lot of calcium, magnesium, vitamin B and the other good stuff in soy beans.

Like green tea, soy products vary greatly. In time, I'm sure science will determine what the safe, and not-so-safe forms and quantities of soy are. They'll probably be able to tell you what times of day, and when in your life, that soy is healthiest.

Until science has all the answers, treat yourself to a balanced diet. I think that's the safest bet. Moderation. As the LA Times reported, "if anything is problematic, nutritionists say, it is the quintessentially American habit of assuming that if a little of something is good, then a lot must be really good."


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Pound360 Archive

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I started pound360 to channel my obsession with vitamins, running and the five senses. Eventually, I got bored focusing on all that stuff, so I came back from a one month hiatus in May of 2007 (one year after launching Pound360) and broadened my mumblings here to include all science.