The Solae Company, developer of soy protein products in partnership with Dupont, has petitioned the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a health claim suggesting that the consumption of soy protein-based foods may reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, including breast, prostate and colon cancer. Their submission includes 58 studies “supporting the relationship between the consumption of soy protein-based foods and the reduced risk of developing these types of cancer.”
Note how carefully these words are chosen. There is actually no proof that products containing modern soy protein can prevent cancer; instead there is evidence that such foods may contribute to cancer. For example, in our Winter, 2003 issue, we described a study in which consumption of soy food was associated with higher rates of bladder cancer (Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 2002 Dec;11(12):1647-7) and another in which the only soy food associated with protection against breast cancer was miso–not modern products containing processed soy protein. A number of animal studies indicate that soy promotes undesirable changes in breast tissue. In fact, a recent study found that modern processed soy foods and supplements can stimulate the growth of preexisting estrogen-dependent breast tumors (Carcinogenesis 2004 Feb;25(2):211-8). In Holland, investigators could find no relationship between consumption of phytoestrogens from soy and breast cancer risk (Am J Clin Nutr2004; 79(2):282-288).
The Weston A. Price Foundation will submit comments urging denial of Solae’s request.
A recent National Enquirer article features actress Julia Roberts who looks dreadful and continues to have problems getting pregnant. Several years ago, Roberts stated publicly on the Oprah Winfrey Show that she drank large amounts of soy milk. Coincidence? We think not. Consuming large amounts of soy has been shown to cause infertility in many species of animals.
Seeking to expand its sales beyond the yuppie sector of the adult market, White Wave has introduced “kid-friendly” Very Vanilla soy milk, described as “the right blend of kid-friendly flavor and nutrition parents appreciate,” in other words, “loaded with sugar, artificial flavorings and synthetic vitamins.” In a press release on the new product, White Wave asserts that “Soy protein is especially beneficial to children because it provides all of the same amino acids as animal protein without excessive saturated fats and cholesterol. “As a socially responsible company,” said president Steve Demos, “we feel it is our duty to provide foods that allow kids to choose something that’s both nutritionally dense and tastes great.” Another new product is NutriSoy® Next meat analog products “Healthy Made Tasty™” soy-based meat analogs from Archer Daniels Midland. “With the advent of NutriSoy® Next, ADM’s customers can market a product that simulates the flavor and texture of meat more than ever before.” The product is available in strips, shreds, dices, chunks, battered/breaded nuggets and filets and “can be adapted to any recipe or cooking process where meat is used.” A third new product is Estrasorb, “a soy-based topical emulsion for estrogen therapy and menopausal symptoms.”
Pushing Their Product
Meanwhile, manufacturers are promoting existing soy products with renewed vigor. Dairy giant Dean foods, which recently acquired the Silk soy milk line, will spend about $210 marketing their products this year, much of which will be spend convincing consumers to buy soy milk. “Our focus is to own the morning with Silk,” said Dean’s CEO Greg Engles (Newswires, February 20, 2004).
In March, the American Soybean Association (ASA) targeted lawmakers with a Capitol Hill luncheon featuring soy foods prepared by popular chefs. One of the entrees was Green Soybean Tartine “Provincale.” “American soybean growers are pleased to host this event to let policymakers and their staffs experience how great soy foods taste in addition to being good for them,” said ASA president Ron Heck. “This was also an opportunity to showcase the benefits and flexibility of soy in school meal programs for kids in the United States, as well as in Africa, Asia, Latin America and many other places.” The ASA is lobbying for $150 million in 2005 Congressional appropriations for the George McGovern-Robert Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program (Soya & Oilseed Industry News, March 31, 2004).
Soy and Male Pattern Baldness
With the kind of incredible hype and free front-page publicity that the soy industry generates so well, scientists at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center have parlayed research on equol, a soy metabolite produced in the intestinal tract, into the claim that soy is good for men because it will prevent male pattern baldness (sciencedaily.com, March 4, 2004). In mice, equol was shown to block the male hormone dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a chemical said to stimulate prostate growth and cause male pattern baldness. A more accurate description of the research would be this: soy has demasculinizing effects and yes, in some men this can encourage hair growth. In others, however, it can cause hair loss by inhibiting thyroid function. Meanwhile, the team has filed patent applications on equol and “hopes to commercialize the technology.”
More Hair But Not as Nice
Soy may help men find their feminine side and grow more hair, but won’t necessarily make them more nice. That’s the conclusion of a study that did not make the front pages. Researchers at the Department of Biological Sciences, Lehigh University in Bethleham, Pennsylvania fed male monkeys different amounts and types of protein over 15 months. The monkeys who received higher amounts of isoflavones from soy protein had higher rates of both aggressive and submissive behavior. In addition, the proportion of time spent by these monkeys in physical contact with other monkeys was reduced by 68 percent, time spent in proximity to other monkeys was reduced 50 percent and time spent alone was increased 30 percent. The unhappy group of monkeys receiving soy took in 125 mg soy isoflavones per day, the amount contained in 2 1/2 cups soy milk, a handful of soy nuts and less than one serving of Revival meal replacement (Horm Behav 2004 Apr;45(4):278-84). These results are compatible with those of other studies showing increased indications of stress and less social contact in mice fed soy during infancy or whose mothers received soy during pregnancy.
The May issue of Mothering Magazine carried an excellent summary of soy dangers by Kaayla Daniel, PhD, author of The Whole Soy Story (NewTrends, Summer 2004). The article provoked a storm of letters, some supportive and some in whiny complaint that a major magazine would dare to air anything negative about soy. Mark Messina, John Robbins and Brian Strom, all advocates of eating lots of soy (Strom was principal author of a white-wash study on soy infant formula), wrote long letters of complaint. Look for Dr. Daniel’s excellent responses in the July issue of Mothering.
Partial List of Products Containing Soy
Meal Replacement Beverages
Snack/Energy Bars containing soy products
Soy-based Breads or breads containing soy flour
Soy Ice Cream
Soy Infant Formula
Soy Isoflavone Supplements
Textured Vegetable Protein
Symptoms of Possible Disorders Attributed to Soy
Always feeling cold or warm
Hair thinning or loss
Lethargy or low blood pressure
Sore bones and joints
Watery or swelling eyes
Medical Conditions Possibly Attributable to Soy Consumption
Heart or Liver Disease
Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Premature or Delayed Puberty
Auto-Immune Thyroid Disorders
(Graves’ or Hashimoto’s Disease)
Other thyroid disorders