Soy: Too Good to be True
by Brandon Finucan & Charlotte Gerson
Gerson Healing Newsletter
Vol. 14, No. 4 / July-August 1999
In the November/December issue of our Gerson Healing Newsletter, we published a very popular article on the negative aspects of soy called, "Are Soy Products Dangerous." While even in 1966 there was considerable research on the harmful substances within soybeans, you'll be hard pressed to find articles today that claim soy is anything short of a miracle-food. As soy gains more and more popularity through industry advertising, we are moved once again to raise our voice of concern.
We have previously published two articles on soy ("Are Soy Products Dangerous?" Vol. 11, No. 5 and "Soy Products Follow-up" Vol. 11, No. 6), so this third article has been written as both a brief summary and an update.
The Soybean Industry in America
In 1924 soybean production in the U.S. was only at 1.8 million acres harvested, but by 1954, the harvested acres grew to 18.9 million. Today, the soybean is America's third largest crop (harvesting 72 million acres in 1998), supplying more than 50 percent of the world's soybean demand.
Most of these beans are made into animal feed and are manufactured into soy oil for use as vegetable oil, margarine and shortening. Of the traditional uses for soy as a food, only soy sauce enjoys widespread consumption in the American diet. Tofu, measuring 90 percent of Asia's use of the soybean, has gained more popularity in the U.S., but soy is still nowhere near a measurable component of the average American diet - or is it?
For more than 20 years now, the soy industry has concentrated on finding alternative uses and new markets for soybeans and soy byproducts. At your local supermarket, soy can now be found disguised as everything from soy cheese, milk, burgers and hot dogs, to ice cream, yogurt, vegetable oil, baby formula and flour (to name just a few). These are often marketed as low-fat, dairy-free, or as a high-protein, meat substitute for vegetarians. But soy isnt always mentioned on the box cover. Today, an alarming 60% of the food on America's supermarket shelves contain soy derivatives (i.e. soy flour, textured vegetable protein, partially hydrogenated soy bean oil, soy protein isolate). When you look at the ingredients list, and really look at the contents of the "Average American Diet," from snack foods and fast foods to pre-packaged frozen meals, soy plays a major role.
Where the soybean goes wrong?
Here at the Gerson Institute, we feel the positive aspects of the soybean are overshadowed by their potential for harm. Soybeans in fact contain a large number of dangerous substances. One among them is phytic acid, also called phytates. This organic acid is present in the bran or hulls of all seeds and legumes, but none have the high level of phytates that soybeans do. These acids block the bodys uptake of essential minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and especially zinc. Adding to the high-phytate problem, soybeans are very resistant to phytate reducing techniques, such as long, slow cooking.
Soybeans also contain potent enzyme inhibitors. These inhibitors block uptake of trypsin and other enzymes that the body needs for protein digestion. Normal cooking does not deactivate these harmful "antinutrients," that can cause serious gastric distress, reduced protein digestion and can lead to chronic deficiencies in amino acid uptake.
Beyond these, soybeans also contain hemagglutinin, a clot promoting substance that causes red blood cells to clump together. These clustered blood cells are unable to properly absorb oxygen for distribution to the body's tissues, and cannot help in maintaining good cardiac health. Hemagglutinin and trypsin inhibitors are both "growth depressant" substances. Although the act of fermenting soybeans does deactivate both trypsin inhibitors and hemagglutinin, precipitation and cooking do not. Even though these enzyme inhibitors are reduced in levels within precipitated soy products like tofu, they are not altogether eliminated.
Only after a long period of fermentation (as in the creation of miso or tempeh) are the phytate and "antinutrient" levels of soybeans reduced, making their nourishment available to the human digestive system. The high levels of harmful substances remaining in precipitated soy products leave their nutritional value questionable at best, and in the least, potentially harmful.
What About the Studies?
In recent years, several studies have been made regarding the soybeans effect on human health. The results of those studies, largely underwritten by various factions of the soy industry, were of course overwhelmingly in favor of soy. The primary claims about soy's health benefits are based purely on bad science. Although primary arguments for cancer patients to use soy focus on statistics showing low rates of breast, colon and prostate cancer among Asian people, there are obvious facts being utterly ignored.
While the studies boast that Asian women suffer far fewer cases of breast cancer than American women do, the hype neglects to point out that these Asian women eat a diet that is dramatically different than their American counterparts. The standard Asian diet consists of more natural products, far less fatty meat, greater amounts of vegetables and more fish. Their diets are also lower in chemicals and toxins, as they eat far fewer processed (canned, jarred, pickled, frozen) foods. It is likely these studies are influenced by the fact that cancer rates rise among Asian people who move to the U.S. and adopt American-ized diets. Of course, this change of diet goes hand-in-hand with a dramatic shift in lifestyle. Ignoring the remarkable diet and lifestyle changes, to assume only that reduced levels of soy in these American-ized Asian diets is a primary factor in greater cancer rates is poor judgement, and as stated above, bad science. The changes of diet and lifestyle must be considered to reach the correct conclusion.
A widely circulated article, written by Jane E. Allen, AP Science Writer, titled, "Scientists Suggest More Soy in Diet", cites in the course of a symposium, numerous speakers discussing the probable advantages of soy under the title, "Health Impact of Soy Protein." However, the article states that the $50,000 symposium "was underwritten by Protein Technologies International of St. Louis, a DuPont subsidiary that makes soy protein!" In the course of the same symposium, Thomas Clarkson, professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University, states "Current hormone replacement therapy has been a dismal failure from a public health point of view," not because Premarin® is known to cause uterine or other female organ cancers, but "because only 20 percent of the women who could benefit from it are taking it."
Other popular arguments in support of soy state that fermented products, like tempeh or natto, contain high levels of vitamin B-12. However, these supportive arguments fail to mention that soy's B-12 is an inactive B-12 analog, not utilized as a vitamin in the human body. Some researchers speculate this analog may actually serve to block the body's B-12 absorption. It has also been found that allergic reactions to soybeans are far more common than to all other legumes. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics admits that early exposure to soy through commercial infant formulas, may be a leading cause of soy allergies among older children and adults.
In his classic book, A Cancer Therapy - Results of 50 Cases (p. 237), Dr. Gerson put "Soy and Soy Products" on the "FORBIDDEN" list of foods for Gerson Therapy patients. At the time, his greatest concerns were two items: the high oil content of soy and soy products, and the rather high rate of allergic reactions to soy. Soybeans can add as much as 9 grams of fat per serving, typically adding an average of 5 grams of fat per serving when part of an average American diet.
The Extraction Process
The processes which render the soybean "edible" are also the processes which render it "inedible." In fermenting soybeans, the process entails that the beans be puréed and soaked in an alkaline solution. The puréed mixture is then heated to about 115°C (239°F) inside a pressure cooker. This heating and soaking process destroys most, but not all, of the anti-nutrients. At the same time, it has the unwelcome effect of denaturing the proteins of the beans so they become very difficult to digest and greatly reduced in effectiveness. Unfortunately, the alkaline solution also produces a carcinogen, lysinealine, while it reduces the already low cystine content within the soybean. Cystine plays an essential role in liver detoxification, allowing our bodies to filter and eliminate toxins. Without proper amounts of cystine, the protein complex of the soybean becomes useless, unless the diet is fortified with cystine-rich meat, egg, or dairy products - not an option for Gerson patients.
To the soybeans credit, they do contain large amounts of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, but these are particularly susceptible to rancidity when subjected to high pressures and temperatures. Unfortunately, high pressure and temperature are required to remove soybean oil from the soybean.
Before soybeans are sent to your table, they undergo a rigorous process to strip them of their oil. Hexane or other solvents are first applied to help separate the oil from the beans, leaving trace amounts of these toxins in the commercial product. Hexane by definition is; "any of five colorless, volatile, liquid hydrocarbons C6H14 of the paraffin series," and cannot be the least bit beneficial in anyones diet. After the oil is extracted, the defatted flakes are used to form the three basic soy protein products. With the exception of full-fat soy flour, all soybean products contain trace amounts of carcinogenic solvents.
The following letter was received in November 1998: "I have used soy milk for 12 years with no problems. About 9 months ago, I started to have heart palpitations. I thought maybe that I was in menopause, but I wasnt. I added more potassium to my diet and magnesium and vitamin E. No change. I am already decaffeinated but I also took all sugar out of my diet. I lost 25 pounds and felt great except for the palpitations. I tried hawthorn and garlic but nothing was helping. Recently I came down with acute bronchitis and could only drink water because even the soy milk made me have horrendous bouts of coughing. I realized that after a few days my heart palpitations had stopped. I didn't think anything of it because it never occurred to me that soy was the culprit. As soon as I started drinking it again, my heart went crazy. I went off it for a week and then changed brands. Within 30 minutes of drinking only 4 ounces [of soy milk], my heart was all over the place. I've noticed that it takes about 24 to 36 hours for my heart to settle down. I wondered if your research turned up anything like this in regard to soy. I know it is not within the definition of an allergy, but something is definitely going on. I called the manufacturer of the soy milk, but they were of no help. I am very upset because I only drink soy milk and water. I also use the soy milk to make protein shakes (with what else but soy protein)."
In our November/December 1996 issue of the Gerson Healing Newsletter we described another case: a pregnant lady who looked very ill and was terribly deficient! She also described her son, age five, who had many allergies and infections - both were using a good deal of soy in their diet. I recommended that they discontinue the use of all soy products. At the time, I had only just run across this situation. However, a year later, I was in the same area for a lecture, and the lady invited me to dinner. She had cut out all soy products: her skin was now rosy, her face filled out, her sunken eyes normal, her black circles gone and her little boy, now six, was in greatly improved health.
Just last week, another interesting story came to our attention. A patient at the Gerson Certified Hospital in Mexico told us of her son, now 25, who has total lack of hair (Alopecia) with the exception of eyebrows and eyelashes. She added that this started when he was just three years old. Since the mother asked me about this situation, I considered the problem for a moment. Then, looking at the parents who both have normal hair, I figured that the boy's problem was most probably not genetic. So, I asked the mother if he used a lot of soy. She said, no. But then, after thinking about the question for a moment, she said that at about one year of age, the boy had many allergies, so she regularly fed him soy milk! I explained to her that the enzyme and nutrient blocking ability of soy and the likelihood of the soy milk being the cause of his condition starting at age three. Since we had just witnessed the case of a patient whose hair grew back on his bald pate, (See "Practitioner Training" article in this issue) after being bald for some 20 years, I cautiously suggested that a complete change of diet accompanied by intensive detoxification, may be able to overcome the problem.
Don't Believe the Hype!
The Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) is one of the leading manufacturers of soy products. They are seeking "GRAS" (generally recognized as safe) status from the FDA for isoflavones, the estrogen-like compounds found in soy products. They have submitted a document entitled, " An information document reviewing the safety of soy isoflavones used in specific dietary applications."
Dr. Mike Fitzpatrick, a biochemist and former Auckland University professor has carefully analyzed this material and presented his findings in an article entitled, "Soy Isoflavones: Panacea or Poison" published in the Journal of the Price-Pottinger Nutrition Foundation (vol. 22, no. 3). Dr. Fitzpatrick concluded that ADM's supporting document "contains factual errors, misrepresents cited authors and does not present the full body of scientific evidence."
ADM claims that "these isoflavones have been consumed by millions of humans for over two thousand years." In actuality, while they have been used in Asia for hundreds of years, they "did not form a significant part of [the Asian] diet." Furthermore, notes Fitzpatrick, "the traditional soybean was quite different from the soybean as we know it today ." The wild soybean, Glycine soja, "is the species that was consumed traditionally and is the ancestor of the modern cultivar, Glycine max, explains Fitzpatrick. The modern day species has been cultivated to breed much more protein than the traditional soybean. The isoflavones serve as a "defense mechanism in response to pests. Increased disease resistance has been a consistent goal of soybean breeders and it is quite conceivable that this goal has served to increase the levels of isoflavones, and other naturally occurring toxins in the Glycine max." The levels of isoflavones in Glycine max vary considerably. "If this is so, then it is not implausible that the traditional Asian soybean, Glycine soja, contained quite low levels of isoflavones or perhaps none at all," states Fitzpatrick. Therefore, ADM's assertion that soybeans have been safely consumed for over two thousand years cannot be substantiated.
Soy and Infant Formula
What is particularly worrisome is the presence of soy in infant formulas. It is interesting to note that many infants cannot tolerate soy formulas, that they seem to be "allergic" to the soy.
Perhaps the body is instinctively rejecting the enzyme inhibitors found in the soy. In a letter addressed to Linda Kahl at the division of Product Policy of the Food and Drug Administration dated April 22, 1998, Daniel Sheehan, Ph.d and director of the Estrogen Base Program at the National Center for Toxicological Research wrote:
"There is abundant evidence that some of the isoflavones, including genistein and equal are toxicants... additionally, isoflavones are inhibitors of thyroid peroxidase which makes T3 and T4. Inhibition can be expected to generate thyroid abnormalities including goiter and autoimmune thyroiditis. In fact, infants consuming soy infant formula rich in isoflavones have about a two-fold risk of developing these diseases...While isoflavones may have beneficial effects at some ages or circumstances, this cannot be assumed to be true at all ages. Isoflavones are like other estrogens in that they are two-edged swords, conferring both benefits and risk. Dr. Sheehan believes that "The addition of isoflavones to foods needs to be considered just as would the addition of estrogen to foods, which is a bad idea."
Dr. Sheehan is very concerned about the high isoflavone content found in soy based formulas. He feels that infants fed these formulas have been placed at risk in a "large, uncontrolled, and basically unmonitored human infant experiment." Dr. Fitzpatrick raises another issue: he believes that soy may combine with other xenoestrogens (such as pesticides). Fitzpatrick writes that "because of the potential for synergistic effects, human exposure to all endocrine disrupters, such as the soy isoflavones urgently requires reduction."
Soy and the Western Diet
In part one of this article, we mentioned that assumptions have been made linking soy intake to the low incidence of certain cancers in Asia. "However, an epidemiological study in China has shown that high soy intake is not protective against breast cancer."1
The soy proponents have conveniently overlooked a study which has shown that high levels of genistein "may stimulate breast cells to enter the cell cycle" 2. These findings are "consistent with an earlier report by Petrakis et al. who expressed concern that women fed soy protein isolate have an increased incidence of epithelial hyperplasia."3
The U.K. government recently published their findings of the effects of soy in the diet, concluding that "there was almost no evidence linking health benefits from foods containing isoflavones to the isoflavones themselves."4
Another study concluded that "any benefits from soy products are not due to isoflavones specifically... [and] the combination of a high phytoestrogen intake with a western diet may not be beneficial.5
Adding to the natural trouble with soybeans, we are faced with a new Western phenomenon: genetically altered soy. Among other genetically altered, or transgenic foods like corn, apples, tomatoes, squash, strawberries, lettuce, potatoes, wheat and even walnuts (to name just a few), soy is one of the most controversial. MonsantoTM, the multi-million dollar biotechnology leader that brought us rBGH (Bovine Growth Hormone), has been fighting to put genetically altered foods on your table for several years. So far, they are winning. The truth is, unless you've been eating ONLY organic foods, it is likely you've been tasting Monsanto's handiwork.
Monsanto has gained millions in profits from sales of its popular herbicide, Roundup®, and in turn has produced several transgenic crops that resist it. Soy is of course among those Roundup-Ready® crops. Being resistant to this powerful herbicide, farmers are able to spray more of it on their crops, resulting in higher levels of toxins in the harvested product. Recent studies have shown that sprayed soybean crops have an elevated estrogen level (much higher than the soybean's already high levels). As we mentioned earlier, the synergistic effect of these estrogens - especially on children ingesting soy based formula is unknown, but in a recent study reported in Pediatrics raised a few eyebrows. "Investigators found that one percent of all girls now show signs of puberty, such as breast development or pubic hair before the age of THREE; by age eight 14.7 percent of Caucasian girls and a whopping 48.3 percent of African-American girls had one or both of these characteristics" states Sally Fallon in the Price-Pottinger article on soy. (For a natural alternative to soy and milk based formula, see Nourishing Traditions, available through PPNF at 619-574-7763).
These higher estrogen levels have proven to increase amounts of fat produced in the milk of cows fed the altered altered and sprayed beans. Together with the use of rBGH, the elevated estrogen levels bring into question whether cows milk can really be called milk.
The European Union has fought desperately to keep genetically altered crops from entering Europe's food chain, but this June, both France and Ireland will be planting the first altered crops to be grown on European soil. In the United States, there are very few (if any) regulations placed on the biotechnology industry.
Soy and Protein Intake
Soybeans are not the basis of measurement for whether or not a vegetarian diet is supplying you with the protein and nutrients your body needs. In fact, a diet completely devoid of soy or meat products, but varied in vegetables and fruits, can supply your body with all the protein and nutrients it needs. The important factor in determining whether or not your soy-free, vegetarian diet is good enough for you is not careful food combining, it is calories. As long as you ar eating enough leafy greens, fruits and vegetables, your body will be supplied with everything it needs. This is why the Gerson Therapy, with its well-balanced, plant-based (soy-free) diet, rich in vitamins and enzymes, is able to effectively heal even the most difficult of ailments.
1. Yuan JM et al. Diet and breast cancer in Shanghai and Yianjin. Br J Cancer 71:1353-1358 (1995). 2. Dees C et al. Dietary estrogens stimulate breast cells to enter the cell cycle. Eviron Health Perspect 105 (Suppl 3): 633-636 (1997). 3. Petrakis NL et al. Stimulatory influence of soy protein isolate on breast secretion in pre- and post-menopausal women. Cancer Epid Bio Prev 5: 785-794 (1996). 4. Assessment on phytoestrogens in the human diet. Institute for Environmental Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1997). 5. Adlecruetz H and Mazur W. Phytoestrogens and western diseases. Annals of Medicine 29: 95-120 (1997).
Web References from "Soy: Too Good to be True"
- New Century Nutrition, "A Great Bean - But No Panacea" by Charles R. Attwood, M.D., F.A.A.P., http://www.newcenturynutrition.com/NCN/ articles/a_great_bean.html
- "Soybean Products: A Recipe for Disaster?" Extracted from Nexus Magazine, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Apr-May 1997), http://www.icom.net/ ~nexus/soya.html
- Soy Protein Council, http://www.spcouncil.org
- "Jeopardizing the Future? Genetic Engineering, Food and the Environment", by Dr. Michael Hanson and Jean Halloran (Consumer Policy Institute /Consumers Union), http://www.pmac.net/ jeopardy.html
- "Monsanto Genetically Engineered Soya has Elevated Hormone Levels: Public Health Threat" (Oct. 1997), http://www.holisticmed.com/ ge/warning.html
- "Monsantos Toxic Roundup" (Nov. 1996), http://www.holisticmed.com/ge/roundup.html
- "Toxicity from Genetically-Engineered Foods", http://www.holisticmed.com/ge/toxicity.html
- Eat the State!, "Nature & Politics" by Jeffrey St. Clair and Alexander Cockburn (Feb. 1999), http://www.eatthestate.org/03-22/ NaturePolitics.htm
- "Concerns Regarding Soybeans", http://www.rheumatic.org/soy.htm
Gerson Healing Newsletter
Vol. 14, No. 4 / July-August 1999
Copyright (C) 2000
by Chet Day
All rights reserved.
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