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Soy-Based Foods No Good As A Hormone Replacement

As you know, I strongly advocate natural simplier solutions to health problems rather than using "bandaid" drugs that only "cure" symptoms of illness, and not the cause of them. Replacing hormone therapy with soy foods and supplements, however, isn't one of them.

As the story goes, a Michigan women introduced soy into her diet, hoping that its high level of phytoestrogens, plant-based estrogens, would offer relief. She cooked with tofu, made soy smoothies, drank soy milk and ate edamame, young soybeans. She also took a supplement that contained 55 milligrams of isoflavones, a purified form of the phytoestrogen in soy. Since the woman started eating soy, she's had fewer and milder hot flashes.

Although there is much debate in scientific circles about health benefits of soy, because there have been no double-blind controlled studies, there's no doubt in my mind about the dangers of eating processed soy products.

  • Increase the risk of breast cancer in women, brain damage in both men and women, and abnormalities in infants
  • Contribute to thyroid disorders, especially in women
  • Promote kidney stones
  • Weaken the immune system
  • Cause severe, potentially fatal food allergies

Despite the debate, the FDA is reviewing a request by Solae, a soy food company, for permission to make the claim on its food products that soy prevents some cancers. In 1999, FDA approved a health claim for the cholesterol-lowering properties of soy. But a rigorous study published last month in JAMA found isoflavones did not improve cholesterol levels, cognitive function or bone mineral density in postmenopausal women who took them for a year.

Some studies, for example, those of Dr. Bill Helferich, a nutrition professor at the University of Illinois, suggest that the estrogen can cause breast cell proliferation, and potentially tumor growth. Helferich fed isoflavones to mice, which made their tumors grow more aggressively.

There are some redeeming qualities to soy, but these are found primarily in fermented soy products like tempeh, miso and natto and soybean sprouts. If you want to get some health benefits from soy, stick to these four forms and pass up the processed soy milks, burgers, ice cream, cheese, and the myriad of other soy junk foods that are so readily disguised as health foods.

Wilmington Star-News August 24, 2004

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