The Dark Side of Soy - Part 1

The following is an extract from an article in which the authors bring us the latest research about the dark side of soy....

By Sally Fallon & Mary G. Enig, Ph.D.

Cinderella's Dark Side

The propaganda that has created the soy sales miracle is all the more remarkable because, only a few decades ago, the soybean was considered unfit to eat – even in Asia. During the Chou Dynasty (1134-246 BC), the soybean was designated one of the five sacred grains, along with barley, wheat, millet, and rice.

Agricultural literature of the period speaks frequently of the soybean and its use in crop rotation. Apparently, the soy plant was initially used as a method of fixing nitrogen.

The soybean did not serve as a food until the discovery of fermentation techniques, sometime during the Chou Dynasty. The first soy foods were fermented products like tempeh, natto, miso, and soy sauce.

At a later date, possibly in the 2nd century BC, Chinese scientists discovered that a purée of cooked soybeans could be precipitated with calcium sulfate or magnesium sulfate (plaster of Paris or Epsom salts) to make a smooth, pale curd – tofu or bean curd.

The use of fermented and precipitated soy products soon spread to other parts of the Orient, notably Japan and Indonesia.  The Chinese did not eat unfermented soybeans as they did other legumes such as lentils because the soybean contains large quantities of natural toxins or "antinutrients."

First among them are potent enzyme inhibitors that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion.  These inhibitors are large, tightly folded proteins that are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking.

They can produce serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake.

In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas, including cancer.  Soybeans also contain haemagglutinin, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together.

Trypsin inhibitors and haemagglutinin are growth inhibitors.  Weanling rats fed soy containing these antinutrients fail to grow normally.  Growth-depressant compounds are deactivated during the process of fermentation, so once the Chinese discovered how to ferment the soybean, they began to incorporate soy foods into their diets.

In precipitated products, enzyme inhibitors concentrate in the soaking liquid rather than in the curd.  Thus, in tofu and bean curd, growth depressants are reduced in quantity but not completely eliminated.

Soy also contains goitrogens - substances that depress thyroid function.

Additionally 99% a very large percentage of soy is genetically modified and it also has one of the highest percentages of contamination by pesticides of any of our foods.

Soybeans are high in phytic acid, present in the bran or hulls of all seeds.

It's a substance that can block the uptake of essential minerals – calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, and especially zinc – in the intestinal tract.  Although not a household word, phytic acid has been extensively studied; there are literally hundreds of articles on the effects of phytic acid in the current scientific literature.

Scientists are in general agreement that grain-and legume-based diets high in phytates contribute to widespread mineral deficiencies in third world countries.  Analysis shows that calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc are present in the plant foods eaten in these areas, but the high phytate content of soy-and grain-based diets prevents their absorption.

The soybean has one of the highest phytate levels of any grain or legume that has been studied, and the phytates in soy are highly resistant to normal phytate-reducing techniques such as long, slow cooking.  Only a long period of fermentation will significantly reduce the phytate content of soybeans.

When precipitated soy products like tofu are consumed with meat, the mineral-blocking effects of the phytates are reduced.  The Japanese traditionally eat a small amount of tofu or miso as part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a serving of meat or fish.

Vegetarians who consume tofu and bean curd as a substitute for meat and dairy products risk severe mineral deficiencies.  The results of calcium, magnesium, and iron deficiencies are well known; those of zinc are less so.

Zinc is called the intelligence mineral because it is needed for optimal development and functioning of the brain and nervous system.  It plays a role in protein synthesis and collagen formation; it is involved in the blood-sugar control mechanism and thus protects against diabetes; it is needed for a healthy reproductive system.  Zinc is a key component in numerous vital enzymes and plays a role in the immune system.

Phytates found in soy products interfere with zinc absorption more completely than with other minerals.

Soy Protein Isolate: Not So Friendly

Soy processors have worked hard to get these antinutrients out of the finished product, particularly soy protein isolate (SPI) which is the key ingredient in most soy foods that imitate meat and dairy products, including baby formulas and some brands of soy milk.

SPI is not something you can make in your own kitchen.

Production takes place in industrial factories where a slurry of soy beans is first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fibre, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution.  Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product.

The resultant curds are spray-dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder. A final indignity to the original soybean is high-temperature, high-pressure extrusion processing of soy protein isolate to produce textured vegetable protein (TVP).

Much of the trypsin inhibitor content can be removed through high-temperature processing, but not all.

High-temperature processing has the unfortunate side effect of so denaturing the other proteins in soy that they are rendered largely ineffective. That's why animals on soy feed need lysine supplements for normal growth.

Nitrites, which are potent carcinogens, are formed during spray-drying, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is formed during alkaline processing.  Numerous artificial flavorings, particularly MSG, are added to soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein products to mask their strong "beany" taste and to impart the flavour of meat.

In feeding experiments, the use of SPI increased requirements for vitamins E, K, D, and B12 and created deficiency symptoms of calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron, and zinc Phytic acid remaining in these soy products greatly inhibits zinc and iron absorption; test animals fed SPI develop enlarged organs, particularly the pancreas and thyroid gland, and increased deposition of fatty acids in the liver.

Yet soy protein isolate and textured vegetable protein are used extensively in commercial baked goods, diet beverages, and fast food products.  They are heavily promoted in third world countries and form the basis of many food giveaway programmess.

Marketing the Perfect Food

"Just imagine you could grow the perfect food. This food not only would provide affordable nutrition, but also would be delicious and easy to prepare in a variety of ways. It would be a healthful food, with no saturated fat. In fact, you would be growing a virtual fountain of youth on your back forty."

The author is Dean Houghton, writing for The Furrow, a magazine published in 12 languages by John Deere.

"This ideal food would help prevent, and perhaps reverse, some of the world's most dreaded diseases. You could grow this miracle crop in a variety of soils and climates. Its cultivation would build up, not deplete, the land... this miracle food already exists... It's called soy."

Just imagine. Farmers have been imagining – and planting more soy.

What was once a minor crop, listed in the 1913 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook not as a food but as an industrial product, now covers 72 million acres of American farmland.

Much of this harvest will be used to feed chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows, and salmon. Another large fraction will be squeezed to produce oil for margarine, shortenings, and salad dressings.

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.

The new fairy-tale food has been marketed not so much for her beauty but for her virtues.

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 that will prevent heart disease and cancer, whisk away hot flushes, build strong bone, and keep us forever young.

The competition – meat, milk, cheese, butter, and eggs – has been duly demonised by the appropriate government bodies.  Soy serves as meat and milk for a new generation of virtuous vegetarians.

Marketing Costs Money

This is especially when it needs to be bolstered with "research," but there's plenty of funds available.

All soybean producers pay a mandatory assessment of one-half to one percent 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".

Public relations firms help convert research projects into newspaper articles and advertising copy, and law firms lobby for favorable government regulations.  IMF money funds soy processing plants in foreign countries, and free trade policies keep soybean abundance flowing to overseas destinations.

The push for more soy has been relentless and global in its reach.

Soy protein is now found in most supermarket breads.  It is being used to transform "the humble tortilla, Mexico's corn-based staple food, into a protein-fortified "super-tortilla" that would give a nutritional boost to the nearly 20 million Mexicans who live in extreme poverty."

Advertising for a new soy-enriched loaf from Allied Bakeries in Britain targets menopausal women seeking relief from hot flushes. Sales are running at a quarter of a million loaves per week.  Soy milk has posted the biggest gains, soaring from $2 million in 1980 to $300 million in the US last year.

Recent advances in processing have transformed the gray, thin, bitter, beany-tasting Asian beverage into a product that Western consumers will accept – one that tastes like a milkshake, but without the guilt.  Processing miracles, good packaging, massive advertising, and a marketing strategy that stresses the products' possible health benefits account for increasing sales to all age groups.

For example, reports that soy helps prevent prostate cancer have made soy milk acceptable to middle-aged men. "You don't have to twist the arm of a 55- to 60-year-old guy to get him to try soy milk," says Mark Messina.  Michael Milken, former junk bond financier, has helped the industry shed its hippie image with well-publicized efforts to consume 40 grams of soy protein daily.

America today, tomorrow the world. Soy milk sales are rising in Canada, even though soy milk there costs twice as much as cow's milk. Soybean milk processing plants are sprouting up in places like Kenya.  Even China, where soy really is a poverty food and whose people want more meat, not tofu, has opted to build Western-style soy factories rather than develop western grasslands for grazing animals.

FDA Health Claim Challenged

On October 25, 1999, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decided to allow a health claim for products "low in saturated fat and cholesterol" that contain 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving. Breakfast cereals, baked goods, convenience food, smoothie mixes, and meat substitutes could now be sold with labels touting benefits to cardiovascular health, as long as these products contained one heaped teaspoon of soy protein per 100-gram serving.

The best marketing strategy for a product that is inherently unhealthy is, of course, a health claim.

The FDA had also received, early in 1998, the final British Government report on phytoestrogens, which failed to find much evidence of benefit and warned against potential adverse effects.

FDA bureaucrats engaged in the "rigorous approval process" were forced to deal nimbly with concerns about mineral blocking effects, enzyme inhibitors, goitrogenicity, endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, and increased allergic reactions from consumption of soy products.

One of the strongest letters of protest came from Dr. Dan Sheehan and Dr. Daniel Doerge, government researchers at the National Center for Toxicological Research. Their pleas for warning labels were dismissed as unwarranted.

"Sufficient scientific evidence" of soy's cholesterol-lowering properties is drawn largely from a 1995 meta-analysis by Dr James Anderson, sponsored by Protein Technologies International and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.  A meta-analysis is a review and summary of the results of many clinical studies on the same subject.  Use of meta-analyses to draw general conclusions has come under sharp criticism by members of the scientific community.

"Researchers substituting meta-analysis for more rigorous trials risk making faulty assumptions and indulging in creative accounting," says Sir John Scott, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand. "Like is not being lumped with like. Little lumps and big lumps of data are being gathered together by various groups."

There is the added temptation for researchers, particularly researchers funded by a company like Protein Technologies International, to leave out studies that would prevent the desired conclusions. Dr. Anderson discarded eight studies for various reasons, leaving a remainder of twenty-nine.

The published report suggested that individuals with cholesterol levels over 250 mg/dl would experience a "significant" reduction of 7 to 20 percent in levels of serum cholesterol if they substituted soy protein for animal protein. Cholesterol reduction was insignificant for individuals whose cholesterol was lower than 250 mg/dl.

In other words, for most of us, giving up steak and eating veggie burgers instead will not bring down blood cholesterol levels. The health claim that the FDA approved "after detailed review of human clinical data" fails to inform the consumer about these important details.

"Research that ties soy to positive effects on cholesterol levels is "incredibly immature," said Ronald M. Krauss, MD, head of the Molecular Medical Research Program and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.  He might have added that studies in which cholesterol levels were lowered through either diet or drugs have consistently resulted in a greater number of deaths in the treatment groups than in controls – deaths from stroke, cancer, intestinal disorders, accidents, and suicide.

Cholesterol-lowering measures in the US have fuelled a $60 billion per year cholesterol-lowering industry, but have not saved us from the ravages of heart disease.

The story continues in part 2....(which will be added shortly...)

For access to the full article and references go to:
http://www.mercola.com/article/soy/avoid_soy.htm


About the Authors:

Sally Fallon is the author of Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats (1999, 2nd edition, New Trends Publishing) and President of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Washington, DC (www.WestonAPrice.org).

Mary G. Enig, Ph.D., a nutritionist widely known for her research on the nutritional aspects of fats and oils, is a consultant, clinician, and the director of the Nutritional Sciences Division of Enig Associates, Inc., Silver Spring, Maryland.  She received her PhD in Nutritional Sciences from the University of Maryland, College Park in 1984, taught a graduate course in nutrient-drug interactions for the University's Graduate Program in Nutritional Sciences, and held a Faculty Research Associateship from 1984 through 1991 with the Lipids Research Group in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

Dr. Enig is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition, and a member of the American Institute of Nutrition. Her many years of experience as a "bench chemist" in the analysis of food fats and oils, provides a foundation for her active roles in food labeling and composition issues at the federal and state levels.

Dr. Enig is a Consulting Editor to the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition" and formerly served as a Contributing Editor to "Clinical Nutrition." She has published 14 scientific papers on the subject of food fats and oils, several chapters on nutrition for books, and presented over 35 scientific papers on food and nutrition topics.