SOY MAY HELP MEN REMEMBER ANNIVERSARIES
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!
Led by Peter Howe at the University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, researchers 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 thirty-four healthy men who participated in a twelve-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 percent fewer attempts to correctly complete the tasks, committed 23 percent fewer errors, and achieved the tasks in 17 percent 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!
We have a major confession from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)! The agency actually admits it’s been supporting research on soy and health for many years but is clueless about whether or not soy prevents or cures much of anything. Or has even been proven safe! After commissioning a thorough review of the literature (www.ahrq.gov/clinic/tp/soytp.htm), NIH found a “large but weak literature with equivocal findings” and “some troubling data about soy products used in research, which included confounding produced by unanticipated levels of phytoestrogens in animal feed” (Heindel et al. Environmental Health Perspectives 2008:116(3);389-393). In other words, to ascertain the benefits of soy, scientists compared its effects in animals to animals fed a control diet full of soy, a poor way to design any study but a great way to hide the negative effects caused by soy feeding.
The official conclusion of the review, written in the finest scientese: “Given the large amount of heterogeneity and inadequate reporting, particularly related to soy protein and isoflavone dose, many questions remain as to whether specific soy products in adequate doses may be of benefit in specific populations. Further, well-conducted studies are needed to clarify the effect of soy dose on lipid parameters and to determine whether soy components other than protein or isoflavones may be responsible for the lipid effects seen.”
To help sort things out, the NIH plans a workshop for nutritionists, scientists, MDs, epidemiologists, biochemists and clinical trialists from academia, industry and government. Their job will be to figure out how to guide “the next generation of soy protein and isoflavone human research.” A key task is to identify methodological issues relative to exposures and interventions that may confound study results and interpretation and to find ways to deal effectively with these issues in the design, completion, reporting and interpretation of studies. NIH also hopes this group will address issues related to exposure to soy and other phytoestrogens, factors influencing variability of response and negative consequences of exposure. Sounds to us like a belated admission that soy might have a “dark side.” Interesting that I haven’t been invited.
SOY IN HAITI
A group called SoyFoods Haiti Alliance Relief Effort (SHARE) is coordinating the donation and delivery of soy foods, soy snacks and soy milk to Haiti. Solae, Whitewave, Alpro and Vitasoy have already donated products and more highprotein donations are sought through Feed the Children and other organizations. “High protein,” of course, is delivered in the form of soy.
While relief efforts are clearly needed and this one seems benevolent, the industry’s real motive is spelled out clearly in a trade newsletter. “In the longer term, donations could also include soybeans, soy protein ingredients and micronutrient supplements for value-added processing in Haiti.” Over the long term, this means decreased reliance on local farmers and cottage industries, failure to build local, sustainable food sources, people forced to rely on unhealthy food products (as opposed to real food), and more profits for the global soy industry. Long term, that means the whole country will need to go into “soy recovery.”
A GREEN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOU AND FOR WAPF
We are pleased to announce a new way to contribute financially to the Weston A. Price Foundation! For members in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, we have associated with Viridian Responsible Energy, a green electricity provider.
Here’s a way for you to go green, reduce your electric bill, and contribute $1-2 per month to WAPF.
Log onto www.viridian.com/WAPF and sign up to make Viridian your energy provider. You will have lower electricity bills and a payment of one to two dollars goes to WAPF every month. The University of Connecticut receives $10,000 per month from consumers who signed up for Viridian. WAPF can do the same—what a difference that would make for our budget!
Here’s how it works: Viridian buys renewable energy from local wind and solar farms, and sells it directly to customers, through their utility company. There are no fees or contracts, and the customer still gets one bill, from his or her same current electricity provider. This switch is completely transparent to you—only you’ll be paying less on your electricity bill every month. However, your reliability and emergency repair will remain the responsibility of your utility company, so are completely unaffected.
It takes five minutes to switch, and making the change is equivalent to planting 130 trees or not driving 2400 miles! Save money, help the environment, and help WAPF help you!
Coming soon: for members in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Texas, Viridian will be expanding into your states, and you too will be able to switch to green energy, save money and support WAPF!
For more information, log onto: www.viridian.com/WAPF, or contact Beth Beisel, WAPF member, at bbeisel@comcast. net.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Spring 2010.