Believe it or not, the soy industry is now promising new and improved men – men who not only have better “working memories,” but men who might even remember anniversaries!
Researchers, led by Peter Howe at the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, concluded in the November 2009 British Journal of Nutrition that “Isoflavone supplementation in healthy males may enhance cognitive processes which appear dependent on oestrogen activation.” In other words, soy-estrogenized men will think and act more like women. The study involved 34 healthy men who participated in a12-week double-blind, placebo-controlled cross-over trial. The men were randomly assigned to receive a daily dose of 116 mg soy isoflavones or a placebo for six weeks. They were then crossed-over to the other intervention for the following six weeks. Tests of memory, mental function, and visual-spatial processing performed before and after the supplementation period showed that the isoflavone supplements were associated with improved spatial working memory; an area in which females consistently perform better than males. Indeed, the men feminized by the isoflavones required 18 per cent fewer attempts to correctly complete the tasks, committed 23 per cent fewer errors, and achieved the tasks in 17 per cent less time than they did during the placebo phase. The likely reason was circulating estrogens acting upon the estrogen beta receptors (ERbeta) prevalent in areas of the brain that mediate cognitive functions, including parts of the hippocampus, frontal lobe and cortex. The soy isoflavones, however, had no apparent effect on auditory or episodic memory, executive function, or visual-spatial processing.
So how did this “good news” get translated into headlines about soy helping men remember anniversaries? Got me. It does, however, inspire me to propose three topics related to new and improved men for future research. One: Are men on soy isoflavones better at asking for directions? Two: Are men on soy isoflavones more likely to put the toilet seat down? And three: Are men on soy isoflavones more likely to be faithful to their wives because they lose their libido, their ability or both? Inquiring minds want to know!