Soy: What We Currently Know

Science Shows It Is Safe & Effective

There has been a great deal of discussion recently about soy and its effect on health.  Much of the discussion has centered on the question of whether certain components of soy (soy isoflavones) increase the likelihood of breast cancer in women. 

Some Voice Concerns about Soy

The rationale used by those who are concerned about soy is that soy isoflavones are weak phytoestrogens and, like all estrogens, they may increase tissue building.  Opponents have proposed that this could lead to cancer.  It is important to note that this is hypothetical and no human clinical studies to date have found a relationship between soy consumption and an increase in cancer.  In fact, others point out that the weak estrogenic effect of soy isoflavones seems to have opposite effect by bonding to estrogen receptor sites in breast tissue and blocking the stronger tissue-building effects of human estrogens.

Studies Show Soy Lowers Cancer

Several studies have shown that the incidence of breast and prostate cancers is significantly lower in populations that consume regular amounts of soy foods.  One such study published in the prestigious scientific journal, Carcinogenesis (Volume 23, No. 9, 2002, pp. 1491-1496), found that Asian-American women who consumed soy foods at least four times a week since adolescence were 50% less likely to develop breast cancer.   

A recent meta-analysis study was conducted by skeptical researchers from Johns Hopkins and Georgetown University and published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.  It revealed that women who eat soy foods clearly have a lower risk of developing breast cancer.

Soy Supports Heart Health

Numerous Studies have shown that replacing animal proteins with soy can have a number of positive effects cardiovascular health. Soy lowers cholesterol and triglycerides, blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.  In fact, the evidence is so strong that the normally-resistant FDA approved a health claim for soy protein that allows companies to taut its cardiovascular-supporting effects.

Soy Reduces Menopausal Symptoms

Studies that examined soy protein consumption in peri-menopausal women have found promising results. One study published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology (91:6-11, 1998) suggests eating a diet rich in soy isoflavones may help lower the number and lessen the severity of hot flashes in some peri-menopausal women.

Soy Supports Bone Health

Studies show that populations that consume regular amounts of vegetable protein have a lower incidence of hip fractures.  Preliminary studies in women have shown that eating soy protein with higher levels of naturally occurring isoflavones can positively affect bone density. 

The overall body of evidence from human clinical studies shows excellent anti-cancer effects and clearly eliminates any fear about whether soy promotes cancer.  Not only is soy not harmful, but it actually promotes health in numerous ways; including the reduction of cholesterol and heart disease, menopausal symptoms and the increase of bone health.


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