Monday, January 12, 2009

Confused by Soy

A long long time ago my sister sent me an article about soy, or to be more accurate the unhealthy sides of soy. Up until then I thought that soy was supposed to be the super food, a perfect one. Not that I ever ate soy. Well, not intentionally. Why “intentionally”? Because soy has become an ingredient in almost every prepared or boxed food item we eat, whether we want it or not. But I never purposefully bought or ate soy, tofu and such.

Anyway, I still remembered this article and thought I’ll look it up again because you might be interested to read it, if you haven’t already. So I started doing some of my own “research” and Googled it, and found out that… Wow! What a war there is for and against soy and soy products.

Most of the information I have found was old news. I didn’t find any new “evidence” from let’s say 2007 or 2008. Have I missed it? Do you anything new? And of course, it is all very confusing. You know how it works – this research found X, and another research found Y. Companies pay for research that will enhance the sales of their products, while other organizations support their own research findings. Yes, no, for, against, eat, eat not. Uu, my head is spinning.

As a former researcher myself I can tell you that there is no such thing as an “objective” research, fact or truth. We all have goals and interests to prove, right?! Anyway, here are a few points collected from a few articles (see resources below). They might be old news to you. Or maybe not.

* Advances in technology make it possible to produce isolated soy protein from what was once considered a waste product - the defatted, high-protein soy chips - and then transform something that looks and smells terrible into products that can be consumed by human beings. Flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers and synthetic nutrients have turned soy protein isolate, the food processors' ugly duckling, into a New Age Cinderella.

* Early on, products based on soy protein isolate were sold as extenders and meat substitutes - a strategy that failed to produce the requisite consumer demand. The industry changed its approach. "The quickest way to gain product acceptability in the less affluent society," said an industry spokesman, "is to have the product consumed on its own merit in a more affluent society." So soy is now sold to the upscale consumer, not as a cheap, poverty food but as a miracle substance ... The competition - meat, milk, cheese, butter and eggs - has been duly demonized by the appropriate government bodies. Soy serves as meat and milk for a new generation of virtuous vegetarians.

* New studies have however raised questions over whether the ingredients in soy might increase the risk of breast cancer in some women, affect brain function in men and lead to hidden developmental abnormalities in infants

* Soy critics point to the fact that soybeans, as provided by nature, are not suitable for human consumption.

* Marketing costs money, especially when it needs to be bolstered with "research"... All soybean producers pay a mandatory assessment of 0.5% - 1% of the net market price of soybeans. The total - something like US$80 million annually - supports United Soybean's program to "strengthen the position of soybeans in the marketplace and maintain and expand domestic and foreign markets for uses for soybeans and soybean products".

* … the carefully worded health claim the Food and Drug Administration permits for cholesterol reduction is for soy protein, not for isoflavones… The scientists are worried that the public is interpreting the approval of soy protein as a recommendation to take soy supplements, which generally have higher levels of isoflavones than occur naturally in food.

* A baby fed soy (formula – N.) will receive, through the phytoestrogens, the equivalent of approximately 5 birth control pills per day!... Soy-based formula also has over 1000% more aluminum than conventional milk based formulas… but if one, for whatever reason, cannot breast feed, then (there are other) commercial formula currently available.

* A very large percentage of soy - over 90% - is genetically modified and it also has one of the highest percentages contamination by pesticides of any of the foods we eat.

* Some sources claim that "soy has demonstrated powerful anticancer benefits...the Japanese, who eat 30 times as much soy as North Americans, have a lower incidence of cancers of the breast, uterus and prostate."… But the Japanese, and Asians in general, have much higher rates of other types of cancer…

* The public looks for black and white answers, said Dr. Sheehan, adding: ''We don't have enough information to be able to give the public good advice, and that's why we need to do the studies. Not only can there be some outcomes that are beneficial and some adverse in the same individual, there are also going to be different degrees of susceptibility in different organs, depending on age. This sort of confusion and attempting to sort through the confusion is characteristic of science, but people don't understand it.''

As I read more and more I started to feel dizzy from words like phytochemicals , isoflavones , phytic acid, hemagglutinin, soy protein isolate, goitrogens……….. and trying to figure out - is it good? Is it bad?
And then I became bored with the whole thing.

My conclusion: If people (producers, farmers, companies, etc) mess with this product so much, work on it so much, and process it to make it edible and likable, I don’t want to eat it.
What do you think?

Links to a few articles I read:
Is soy healthy?
Soy: For Your Health or Their Wealth?
Doubts Cloud Rosy News on Soy, By Marian Burros. January 26, 2000

* UPDATE:
I got an e-mail from a reader, Richard, who wrote: “The amount of money soybean producers contribute to market development and research is 1/2 to 1 CENT per bushel, not percent as the article states. 1 percent of current soybean prices would be about 100 times more than the $80 million the article states is currently being collected.” And “ Years ago we voted to pay one half cent per bushel of soybeans we sell, for promotion. Last year producers voted to double the amount to one cent.”

So I looked it up again to see what the articles I read said. I found both “percent” and “per cent”. However, I think it is “per cent” and not %, and I’ll take Richard’s words on it. Bottom line, it’s still millions and millions of dollars for marketing soy and tofu and all their by-products as healthy, good for you food.

And, I still haven’t found new news or updates. It seems that most people are quoting the same resources. My conclusion, however, is still the same – if the food it processed to that extent, and it is genetically modified, stay away from it.
My love for corn has changed because of that. I’ll never look at it the same way. Now it all seems just too suspicious to me. To read more click here.

1 comment:

ChefBliss.com said...

Nurit, thanks for posting about soy. I have been avoiding it for years, primarily because of the genetic modification which was done to allow it to survive the mass of pesticides they dowse on the fields. It's scary. I've also avoided blogging about it because I haven't wanted to do the extra research. So thank you! The tough part is that, like you said, it's IN everything. Avoiding it is close to impossible if you buy anything processed, premade or packaged. I'm with you on this one, I'll stay away. As much as I can. Thanks again!