It may come as a surprise to learn that soy may not be the wonder bean it’s been touted to be. In fact, a little searching on the internet will bring up an amazing amount of sites which outline the hidden dangers of toxins lurking in the soy bean which may have adverse effects on our bodies and health and has been attributed to a rash of modern day illnesses including fibromyalgia and hypothyroidism.
Even the Guardian newspaper wrote a warning article "Should we worry about Soya in our diet?":
Fitzpatrick carried out an exhaustive study of soya and its effects. "We discovered quite quickly," he recalls, "that soya contains toxins and plant oestrogens powerful enough to disrupt women's menstrual cycles in experiments. It also appeared damaging to the thyroid." James's lobbying eventually forced governments to investigate. In 2002, the British government's expert committee on the toxicity of food (CoT) published the results of its inquiry into the safety of plant oestrogens, mainly from soya proteins, in modern food. It concluded that in general the health benefits claimed for soya were not supported by clear evidence and judged that there could be risks from high levels of consumption for certain age groups. Yet little has happened to curb soya's growth since.
More than 60% of all processed food in Britain today contains soya in some form, according to food industry estimates. It is in breakfast cereals, cereal bars and biscuits, cheeses, cakes, dairy desserts, gravies, noodles, pastries, soups, sausage casings, sauces and sandwich spreads. Soya, crushed, separated and refined into its different parts, can appear on food labels as soya flour, hydrolysed vegetable protein, soy protein isolate, protein concentrate, textured vegetable protein, vegetable oil (simple, fully, or partially hydrogenated), plant sterols, or the emulsifier lecithin. Its many guises hint at its value to manufacturers.
Soya increases the protein content of processed meat products. It replaces them altogether in vegetarian foods. It stops industrial breads shrinking. It makes cakes hold on to their water. It helps manufacturers mix water into oil. Hydrogenated, its oil is used to deep-fry fast food.
Soya is also in cat food and dog food. But above all it is used in agricultural feeds for intensive chicken, beef, dairy, pig and fish farming. Soya protein - which accounts for 35% of the raw bean - is what has made the global factory farming of livestock for cheap meat a possibility. Soya oil - high in omega 6 fatty acids and 18% of the whole bean - has meanwhile driven the postwar explosion in snack foods around the world. Crisps, confectionery, deep-fried take-aways, ready meals, ice-creams, mayonnaise and margarines all make liberal use of it. Its widespread presence is one of the reasons our balance of omega 3 to omega 6 essential fatty acids is so out of kilter.
You may think that when you order a skinny soya latte, you are choosing a commodity blessed with an unadulterated aura of health. But soya today is in fact associated with patterns of food consumption that have been linked to diet-related diseases. And 50 years ago it was not eaten in the west in any quantity.
But Soy is the staple diet of Asian countries isn’t it? Certainly that’s what we’ve been led to believe but the reality and truth of the matter is somewhat different:
The hypothesis behind the health claims is that rates of heart disease and certain cancers such as breast and prostate cancer are lower in east Asian populations with soya-rich diets than in western countries, and that the oestrogens in soya might therefore have a protective effect.
Fitzpatrick, however, looked into historic soya consumption in Japan and China and concluded that Asians did not actually eat that much. What they did eat tended to have been fermented for months. "If you look at people who are into health fads here, they are eating soya steaks and veggie burgers or veggie sausages and drinking soya milk - they are getting over 100g a day. They are eating tonnes of the raw stuff."
In fact, most Asian dishes are brimming with fresh vegetables, fish and meat. They do use soy sauce however it is fermented for months to remove the toxicity of the soy bean
Soya is used in traditional oriental diets in these forms, after cultures, moulds or precipitants have achieved a biochemical transformation, because in its raw form the mature bean is known not only for its oestrogenic qualities but for also its antinutrients, according to the clinical nutritionist Kaayla Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story. Soya was originally grown in China as a green manure, for its ability to fix nitrogen in the soil, rather than as a food crop, until the Chinese discovered ways of fermenting it, she says.
The young green beans, now sold as a fashionable snack, edamame, are lower in oestrogens and antinutrients, though not free of them. But raw mature soya beans contain phytates that prevent mineral absorption and enzyme inhibitors that block the key enzymes we need to digest protein. They are also famous for inducing flatulence.
Even the lecithin (a heavy sludge in the soy bean oil draining storage) was once considered a waste product, but now with clever marketing it’s used as an emulsifier and can be found in a high amount of food including margarine.
Soy Online Services has summarised the dangers of soy:
• High levels of phytic acid in soy reduce assimilation of calcium, magnesium, copper, iron and zinc. Phytic acid in soy is not neutralized by ordinary preparation methods such as soaking, sprouting and long, slow cooking. High phytate diets have caused growth problems in children.
• Trypsin inhibitors in soy interfere with protein digestion and may cause pancreatic orders. In test animals soy containing trypsin inhibitors caused stunted growth.
• Soy phytoestrogens disrupt endocrine function and have the potential to cause infertility and to promote breast cancer in adult women.
• Soy phytoestrogens are potent antithyroid agents that cause hypothyroidism and may cause thyroid cancer. In infants, consumption of soy formula has been linked to autoimmune thyroid disease.
• Vitamin B12 analogs in soy are not absorbed and actually increase the body’s requirement for B12.
• Soy foods increase the body’s requirement for vitamin D.
• Fragile proteins are denatured during high temperature processing to make soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein.
• Processing of soy protein results in the formation of toxic lysinoalanine and highly carcinogenic nitrosamines.
• Free glutamic acid or MSG, a potent neurotoxin, is formed during soy food processing and added to many soy foods.
• Soy foods contain high levels of aluminum which is toxic to the nervous system and the kidneys.
SOY INFANT FORMULA — BIRTH CONTROL PILLS FOR BABIES
• Babies fed soy-based formula have 13,000 to 22,000 times more estrogen compounds in their blood than babies fed milk-based formula.
• Infants exclusively fed soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least five birth control pills per day.
• Male infants undergo a “testosterone surge” during the first few months of life, when testosterone levels may be as high as those of an adult male. During this period, baby boys are programmed to express male characteristics after puberty, not only in the development of their sexual organs and other masculine physical traits, but also in setting patterns in the brain characteristic of male behavior.
• Pediatricians are noticing greater numbers of boys whose physical maturation is delayed, or does not occur at all, including lack of development of the sexual organs. Learning disabilities, especially in male children, have reached epidemic proportions.
• Soy infant feeding—which floods the bloodstream with female hormones that inhibit testosterone—cannot be ignored as a possible cause for these tragic developments. In animals, soy feeding indicates that phytoestrogens in soy are powerful endocrine disrupters.
• Almost 15 percent of white girls and 50 percent of African-American girls show signs of puberty such as breast development and pubic hair, before the age of eight. Some girls are showing sexual development before the age of three. Premature development of girls has been linked to the use of soy formula and exposure to environmental estrogens such as PCBs and DDE.
Far from the being the "wonder" bean it appears that soy is the "toxic" bean. Most of us are probably consuming soy in unsuspecting food stuffs such as bread, cakes, sauces, chocolate, frozen foods, mayonnaise and margarine to name but a few.
The Real Bread Campaign found that “fresh” bread sold in supermarkets is part baked and then finished off at the supermarkets. The consumer may not know the amount of artificial ingredients (including soy flour) which lurk in the so-called fresh loaves because loopholes in labelling rules mean they need not list all additives and processing aids.
The Daily Mail’s article "Supermarket bakeries are just loaf tanning salons" tells us:
Supermarkets dress up these loaves as 'fresh' or even 'artisan' bread - suggesting they are the result of craft and expertise.
But a range of processing aids and additives are used, while fat, ascorbic acid, soya flour and sugars are included as 'improvers'.
Processing aids include the fungal enzyme alpha amylase, which increases volume and gives a darker crust and prolonged softness.
The campaign said it could cause an allergic reaction. Enzymes created by genetic modification may also be included.
I asked my local Tesco ‘baker’ if there were any loaves which didn’t contain soy flour. Surprisingly he fanned his hands out to the breads on the ‘freshly’ baked rack, including the organic range, and said “none of these...” then promptly led me away from the ‘fresh’ loaves and past the manufactured bread to their gluten free section...”..Perhaps something here?” he suggested.
Because of the low cost of soy the food industry has been adding soy additives and derivatives to their products. Over the years soy has found its way into vegetable oil, mayonnaise, margarine, chocolate, salad dressings and biscuits.
I find shopping a chore at the best of times, but now it’s a nightmare because I’m scrutinising every ingredient label on all packets, cans and jars looking for the words lecithin, mono-diglycerides, monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein and of course now I avoid processed foods like the plague because more often than not they contain some sort of soy additive or derivative.
Whatever happened to real food?
Edited to add: For anyone who is interested, there is a book called “The Hidden Dangers of Soy” written by Dianne Gregg and available to buy at Amazon.
For more information about soy and the book, please consider visting Dianne’s blog: Hidden Dangers of Soy, and/or her home site