Monday, April 11, 2011

SOY - Cinderella or Ugly Duckling?

SOY - Cinderella or Ugly Duckling?

In the January 2000, issue of The Furrow published by John Deere, an article written by Dean Houghton refers to soy as a 'miracle food', even though it was listed in the 1913 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook as an industrial product. Defatted soy protein is an isolate of the soy chips from the processing of soy for margarine, shortenings, salad dressings, etc. Flavorings, preservatives, sweeteners, emulsifiers and synthetic nutrients have turned soy protein isolate into a 'Cinderella'. It is not required by law to list soy in product content listings as a soy protein isolate (SPI). "Far from being the perfect food, modern soy products contain anti-nutrients (natural toxins) and toxins that block most of the action of the trypsin enzyme, and interfere with the absorption of vitamins and minerals" (Mark Messina, PhD, Third International Soy Symposium).

The early recommended strategy of using soy protein isolate as an extender or meat substitute failed to produce sufficient consumer demand. The industry thus changed its approach to appeal to the upscale consumer-instead of it being a cheap meal extender, it was now a miracle substance to lower heart disease, cancer, hot flashes, and build strong bones. The competition-milk, meat, cheese, butter, and eggs were duly demonized, as the soy isolate became meat and milk for many vegetarians.

Public relations firms helped convert research projects into newspaper articles and advertising copy, law firms lobbied to have regulations changed. The Soy Symposium in Washington, D.C. held in the fall of 1999 was sponsored by, among others, the United Soybean Board, Monsanto, the American Soybean Association, Cargill Foods, SoyLife, and the soybean councils of eight American states. This was the 'high point' of a decade-long marketing campaign to gain consumer acceptance of tofu, soymilk, soy ice cream, soy cheese, soy sausage, and soy derivatives (such as the soy isoflavones of genistein and diadzen, which are the oestrogen-like compounds found in soybeans). It was at this time, in spite of cautions, the US FDA announced that breakfast cereals, baked goods, convenience foods, smoothie mixes, and meat substitutes could now be sold with labels touting benefits to health as long as the products contained one heaping teaspoon of soy protein per 100-gram serving!

Although the soy plant was initially considered unfit to eat and used for nitrogen-fixing in farming, the Chou Dynasty started fermenting it (tempeh, miso, soy sauce) to make it edible, but then began precipitating it with a sulfate (e.g. Epsom salts, plaster of paris) to make a smooth curd. The compounds are deactivated during fermentation and mostly concentrate in the soaking liquid rather than in the curd. The Chinese did not eat unfermented soybeans because the potent enzyme inhibitors (that block the action of trypsin and other enzymes needed for protein digestion) are not completely deactivated during ordinary cooking. In test animals, diets high in trypsin inhibitors cause enlargement and pathological conditions of the pancreas. The haemaglutinin in soybeans, a clot-promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together, is a growth inhibitor.

Soy also contains goitrogens that depress thyroid function and they are high in phytic acid that can block the uptake of essential minerals present in other plant foods being eaten. The phytates in soy are highly resistant to long, slow cooking, and thus are traditionally eaten by the Japanese only as a small part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a serving of meat or fish.

Vegetarians who consume tofu and soybean curd as a substitute for meat and dairy products risk severe mineral deficiencies of calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc-the results of which are well known. Zinc is called the intelligence mineral, as it helps develop the brain and nervous system. It plays a role in protein synthesis, collagen formation, blood-sugar control (helping to protect against diabetes), healthy reproductive system (the prostate depends on zinc), helps the immune system, and is a key component in numerous vital enzymes. A zinc deficiency may even cause a 'spacey' feeling.

The production of SPI involves a slurry of soybeans mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fibre, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash in aluminum tanks (leaching high levels of aluminum into the final product,) neutralized in an alkaline solution, and then spray-dried at high temperatures. The trypsin inhibitor content may vary as much as fivefold. The high temperature of processing has the side effect of denaturing the other proteins in soy to render them largely ineffective, and makes the addition of lysine important to soy feed for normal growth in animals.

The spray drying causes nitrites (potent carcinogens) to form, and a toxin called lysinoalanine is also formed during the alkaline processing. Numerous artificial flavourings, particularly MSG, are added to SPI to give it a strong 'beany' taste. The use of SPI increases needs for vitamins E, K, D, and B12, and creates deficiency symptoms of calcium, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, copper, iron, and zinc and may result in an enlarged pancreas and thyroid gland.

In spite of these facts, soy protein isolates and textured vegetable proteins are used in school lunch programs, commercial baked goods, diet beverages, and fast-food products. Ralston Purina Company sponsored a two-week study in children of preschool age feeding them a drink made of SPI and sugar as a basis for the lunch programs. In suffering occasional vomiting, periods of moderate diarrhea, the odd rash and fever, whether the children would remain actually healthy on such a diet over a long period of time is another question.

Dr James Anderson's study (sponsored by Protein Technologies International and published in the New England Journal of Medicine) suggests that those with cholesterol levels over 250 mg/dl may experience a reduction of 7 to 20% in serum cholesterol levels if using soy protein instead of animal protein-insignificant only for individuals whose cholesterol is lower than 25 mg/dl. So for most of us, giving up steak and eating veggie burgers instead will not bring down blood cholesterol levels, even with the supposed 'cholesterol-lowering' properties.

Although the marketing for soy protein claims anticancer benefits for breast, uterus, and prostate cancer, using the example of the Japanese people who eat 30 times as much soy as North Americans, the Japanese and Asians in general have higher rates of cancer of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas and liver (as little as two tablespoons per day appeared to be enough to negatively influence the body). Asians throughout the world also have a higher rate of thyroid cancer. In 1996, researchers found that women consuming SPI had an increased incidence of epithelial hyperplasia, a condition that presages malignancies. A year later, dietary genistein (a phyto-estrogen) was found to stimulate breast cells to enter the cell cycle-a discovery that led the study authors to conclude that women should not consume soy products to prevent breast cancer.

The literature review done by Mike Fitzpatrick, PhD, uncovered evidence that soy consumption has been linked to numerous disorders including infertility, increased cancer, and infantile leukemia, goiter (the soy isoflavones are goitrogenic), immune system disorders, and to digestive organs being in a state of disintegration. Included in this review were studies dating back to the 1950s revealing that the genistein in soy causes endocrine disruption. Isoflavones inhibit the synthesis of estradiol and other steroid hormones. The claim that soy prevents osteoporosis is extraordinary, given that soy foods block calcium and cause vitamin D deficiencies. It is understood one reason that Westerners have such high rates of osteoporosis is because they have substituted soy oil for butter, which is a traditional source of vitamin D, and other fat-soluble activators needed for calcium absorption.

Dr Fitzpatrick estimates from the review that an infant exclusively fed soy formula receives daily, from the isoflavones, the estrogenic equivalent (based on body weight) of at least five birth control pills per day. By contrast, almost no phyto-estrogens have been detected in dairy-based formula or in human milk, even when the mother consumes soy products. Plus learning disabilities have reached epidemic proportions. Scientists have known for years that soy-based formula can cause thyroid problems in babies. Soy infant feeding-which began in earnest in the early 1970s-cannot be ignored as a probable cause for these tragic developments.

An alarming number of girls are entering puberty much earlier than normal, according to a recent study reported in the journal 'Pediatrics'. New data indicates that environmental estrogens, such as PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) may cause early sexual development in girls. Results of the 1986 Premature Thelarch study, written up in the American Journal of Diseases in Children, show the most significant dietary association with premature sexual development was not consumption of chicken-as reported in the press-but consumption soy infant formula. The consequences of a truncated childhood are tragic. Young girls with mature bodies must cope with feelings and urges that most children are not well equipped to handle. Other problems, reported by parents and associated with children who were fed soy-based formula, include extreme emotional behavior, asthma, immune system problems, pituitary insufficiency, thyroid disorders, and irritable bowel syndrome.

Lurking in the background of the industry hype for soy is the nagging question of whether it is even legal to add soy protein isolate to food. All food additives not in common use prior to 1958, including casein protein from milk, must have 'Generally Recognized As Safe' status (GRAS). Casein protein became codified as GRAS in 1978. So far, soy protein has GRAS status only as a binder in cardboard boxes, as it is considered that migration of nitrites from the box into the food contents would be too small to constitute a cancer risk. Thus soy protein isolate must be subject to premarket approval procedures each time manufacturers intend to use it as a food or add SPI to a food. Soy protein was introduced into infant formula in the early 1960s without GRAS status, which still has not been given- the key ingredient of soy infant formula is not recognized as safe!

The industry has known for years that soy contains many toxins and has exposed itself to analysis that might read: At first they told the public that the toxins were removed by processing. When it became apparent that processing could not completely get rid of them, they claimed that these substances were beneficial. The government granted a health claim to a substance that can be toxic, and the industry has lied to the public to sell more soybean by-product. Farmers have been duped like the rest of us, but they need to find something else to grow before the soy bubble bursts and the market collapses.

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