Diabetes. Early puberty. Learning disabilities. Thyroid disorders. Infertility. Heart arrhythmia. Kidney stones. Uterine cancer. Rheumatoid Arthritis. What is the common denominator?
From a cheap gasoline additive in the 1920s to inclusion today in thousands of food products for humans and domesticated animals, the lowly soy bean has catapulted to nutritional heights as a food industry darling. Touted by health gurus, beauty experts, and even the U.S. government, soy products haunt American homes and restaurants in infant formulas, dairy products, meat substitutes, and baked goods. Non-edible, allergy-inducing soy products lurk in carpets, mattresses, inks, paints, boxes, and plastic.
Blame the misinformed, the imitation food industry, the advertisers, and the American soy farmers who have leapfrogged economically over wheat, corn, and cotton farmers to export mega-tons of soy products to the rest of the world. What is wrong with this picture?
1. Soy is a phytoestrogen. This means it increases the estrogens in those who consume it. Is it any wonder that children raised on soy formulas are entering puberty far earlier than did their parents? Or that women taking hormone replacement are more apt to develop breast cancer if they have a history of soy consumption?
2. Childhood diabetes, concurrent with rising adult obesity, has reached a national emergency. Some scientists suggest that children raised on soy-based products have twice as much chance of becoming diabetic as those who are breast-fed or consume milk-based formulas. Infants receiving soy formula are unwitting victims. Researchers conclude that they can expect high rates of reproductive disorders, asthma, and allergies. They may also suffer from brain damage caused by toxic manganese. Scientists report that soy infant formula contains up to 200 times the manganese of breast milk. Since babies cannot dispose of the excess, it lodges in the liver, the kidneys, the brain, and other soft body tissues. In time, manganese toxicity can lead to highly emotional behavior.
3. Young girls who develop breasts and pubic hair before the age of eight are no longer uncommon in elementary school, but first, second, and third graders bewildered by their changing bodies are not sufficiently mature to handle peer teasing and the responsibility of changing sanitary napkins during the school day. Parents and teachers worry that rising early puberty contributes to increased sexual activity among teenagers and preteens.
4. Many women taking estrogen to ease or postpone the aging process unwittingly multiply the amount they consume by supplementing their prescriptions at the dinner table. This is double jeopardy.
Internationally respected nutritionist Dr. Mary Enig attributes the explosion of soy products to claims by its boosters that Japanese enjoy better health than Americans because they consume soy. "Soy is a condiment in Asian diets, not a staple," she says. "No one would call mustard a staple in the American diet even though it is a very typical foodstuff."
The daily average soy food consumption in Asia, she emphasizes, is less than nine grams (about two teaspoons) as compared with the 25 grams of soy protein per day recommended by the FDA. Studies show that the daily intake of 45 mg for one month can cause hormonal changes in women, and yet the average daily intake of children receiving soy formula is 38 mg, astounding considering the difference in body weight between infants and adults. Even more shocking, the FDA recommended amount of all phytoestrogens in diets of infants and adults is 75 mg.
Could it be that the FDA is in the clutches of the imitation food industry which, in turn, woos consumers by convincing them that replacement of eggs, fish, meat, milk, and poultry with soy milk and tofu burgers translates to health and beauty?
Despite the urgency to curtail soy in the diet, the food industry is neither impressed nor deterred by scientific condemnation of soy. From cereals and pasta to quasi-dairy products, grocery store shelves groan with hundreds of soy-based items touted as preventives of breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Contrary to the unsubstantiated claims penned by ad agencies, numerous studies confirm that soy lowers thyroid function and may cause goiters; low thyroid function contributes significantly to osteoporosis, heart disease, and menopause problems.
To soften or postpone the aging process, gynecologists prescribed estrogen supplements for a generation of menopausal women. Today, alarmed by a burgeoning number of breast cancer victims, physicians are advising their patients to decrease or eliminate the dosage. But many women who unwittingly multiplied the amount of estrogen consumed by supplementing their prescriptions with phytoestrogen at the dinner table may be facing double jeopardy.
Cancer of the breast is not the only worry. Lured by the promise that soy lowers cholesterol, men and women alike subject themselves to soy hell by adopting a diet of soy meat substitutes, soy cheese, soy cereal, tofu smoothies, tofu chunks in salads, and soy ice cream. A report published in Cancer Research found that genistein, one of the isoflavones in soy, is more carcinogenic than the synthetic estrogen DES given to women whose daughters later suffered from very high rates of cervical cancer.
Physical danger from soy isn't limited to expensive products hawked as health panaceas. Those who bother to read the ingredients in common manufactured food products discover that soy has sneaked in where it's least expected, perhaps as a wheat or dairy substitute in noodles, soups, sauces, cookies, oven-ready meals, and low fat elixirs. Total up the amount of soy Americans are consuming both with and without their knowledge and it's easy to understand why the fields of soy spanning America's heartland are the next killing fields worthy of elimination.