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Volume 38, No. 2

The Whole Soy Story

In ancient times in China, soy was valued as a superb green manure for the nitrogen-fixing ability of its roots. However, it was not eaten, either by animals or by people until a slow fermenting process was developed, which reduced its gas-forming indigestibility and the anti-nutrient effects of many of its constituents. Dr. Daniel, author of The Whole Soy Story, gives a short history of uses of soy in the Orient, describes its commercial development here, and gives a great deal of carefully referenced information on the health effects of the many forms of soy that are now promoted.

Soy contains chemicals that mimic estrogen and lower testosterone levels. About two thousand years ago, tofu - the drained curds from cooked, pureed soybeans - became a regular food for monks and assisted their sexual abstinence. These plant estrogens (phytoestrogens) cannot be wholly removed from any variety of soy food. The only way to remove the phytoestrogens is by "alcohol extraction." There is much reason to be concerned about the wide promotion of soy formulas for infants. Dr. Daniel has a chapter entitled. "Soy Infant Formula-Birth Control for Baby?"

Soy contains protein. The monks called it "meat without a bone." However, it is low in methionine, an essential sulphur-containing amino acid, which in Detoxification & Healing: The Key to Optimal Health, NOHA Honorary Member Sidney M. Baker, MD, called "the queen of the amino acids". Dr. Daniel states, "Liver disease, brain disorders, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and depression are just a few of the disorders that have responded to supplements of methionine."

Soy, and many other foods, contain protease inhibitors, which interfere with the digestion of protein. Also, in order to prevent germination, phytates - which are found in beans, grains, and other seeds - tightly tie up minerals like calcium, zinc, and iron, which are essential for health and growth in children. Both protease inhibitors and phytates are greatly reduced by the traditional, time-consuming fermentation processes developed in the orient, but not by modern quick methods.

Lectins are proteins with a "sweet tooth." Found in beans, grains, and other foods they bite into carbohydrates, particularly sugars, often causing immune system reactions and blood clotting. . . .

Soybean lectins have two main functions. First, they react with the carbohydrate component of cell membranes, causing cell injuries and deaths. As this damage accumulates, it adversely affects the gastrointestinal, immune, and other systems of humans and other animal species. Second, they exist in a symbiotic relationship with Rhizobium bacteria. By fixing atmospheric nitrogen in the roots of the soybean plant, the lectin-bacteria team supports the miracle bean's traditional, historical use as a fertilizer and crop rotator.

Usually, soy lectins are digested and inactivated by traditional fermentation or by heat in soy processing. However, it has been found that "soybean meals can, on occasion, retain functional lectins at levels that may be detrimental to the animal's health and productivity." Also: "Soy protein intended for human consumption has consistently contained low levels of functionally intact lectins." This situation can be a problem for those people who eat large quantities of soy protein. Then, "lectins are more than capable of perturbing digestive, absorptive, protective, and secretory functions throughout the gastrointestinal tract. . . . Unlike ordinary food proteins, lectins strongly resist breakdown by enzymes in the gut." Again, lectins are not likely to be much of a problem if people only eat the soy protein infrequently, say, if they "rotate their foods," as recommended by NOHA Professional Advisory Board Member the late Dr. Theron G. Randolph. However, if they eat the soy protein regularly, as a principal source of protein, they are asking for problems from lectins and the many other anti-nutrients in soy.

Saponins are another anti-nutrient, along with protease inhibitors, phytates, and lectins, which all seem "to have evolved to help plants defend themselves against microbes, insects, and animal predators." Saponins injure the gut mucosa and contribute to "leaky gut syndrome." They are toxic to some fungi and yeasts and operate like the antifungal drug nystatin, which binds to the fungal cell membrane and increases its permeability. In the case of the drug, "side effects include pronounced damage to the patient's own cell membranes, with users complaining of gas, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach pain." People who consume modern soy foods complain of the same symptoms.

Cooking and boiling does not remove saponins. "Only alcohol extraction removes them. When soy protein is removed from the oil, saponins stick with the protein." Fewer saponins are found in miso and tempeh. A bacterial enzyme, used in the fermentation that produces miso and tempeh, metabolizes and breaks down soy saponins. Saponins do lower cholesterol and may by themselves become a drug.

In regard to thyroid function:

Soybeans contain goitrogens. . . . Soy is not the only goitrogenic food. Broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cassava, rapeseed, turnips, mustard, radish, peanuts, and millet also contain goitrogens. However, few adults-and even fewer children-eat these foods to excess. Furthermore, the goitrogens in most of these foods are easily neutralized by cooking or fermentation.

Soy foods are different. The principal goitrogens in soybeans are the estrogenic plant hormones known as isoflavones. The antinutrients known as saponins in soy may also be goitrogens. Cooking and processing methods, using heat, pressure, and alkaline solutions, will neither deactivate nor remove isoflavones or saponins. Only solvent extraction can do that. . . . America is plagued by an epidemic of thyroid problems.

Cancer can be promoted by hormone mimickers, like the plant estrogens in soy. These so-called phytoestrogens are also suggested for "natural hormone replacement therapy" and as possible new cancer drugs. Questions remain.

In The Whole Soy Story, Dr. Daniel describes other major problems from consumption in large amounts of the recently developed soy foods, including soy allergies. Another example: Oil is extracted from soy that is usually pesticided and often genetically engineered. (Fat-loving pesticides concentrate in fats and oils) For convenience the soy oil is hydrogenated, producing "trans fats" with their deleterious health effects on all our cell membranes and their great convenience in processed food production.

"In the first half of the 20th century, John Harvey Kellogg, Henry Ford, and others envisioned a grand future for soy. By the 1960s, vegetarians, hippies, environmentalists, and other idealists joined the cry, recommending soy foods as the solution to world hunger, the path to good health, the key to healthy aging, and the way to preserve our environment.

"Sadly, big business and big government have usurped their impossible dream. Old-fashioned whole soy foods that contribute to health if eaten in moderation have given way to ersatz products that lead inevitably to malnutrition and disease."

Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN, The Whole Soy Story: the Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food, New Trends Publishing, Inc., Washington, DC, 2005.

Article from NOHA* NEWS, Fall 2005

*The American Nutrition Association was formerly known as the Nutrition for Optimal Health Association [NOHA].

For informational purposes only - not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment, nor an endorsement by the American Nutrition Association®. Use permitted for non-profit and non-commercial uses or by healthcare professionals in their practice, with attribution to Other use only with written ANA℠ permission. Views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the ANA℠. Works by a listed author subject to copyrights as marked. © 2010 ANA℠