Don't believe everything you read
I've been a Mothering fan for over twelve years, even though I'm only expecting my first child this coming August. Yet after reading this article, and some of the others in the current issue, I'm wondering if it's the magazine that's changed or me. Maybe twelve years ago, I was as strident a know-it-all as many of the writers in this issue. That's not to say that they're necessarily wrong about their ideas. But I notice an underlying theme of underlying paranoia, self-righteousness, and fuzzy-headedness that makes me wonder about the magazine's editorial focus.
For example, in an otherwise compelling, reasoned, and well-documented article on medical marijuana for severe morning sickness, the author claims that only a "perverse federal bureaucrat" could disagree with her. What is she, a Branch Davidian?
But the soy article takes the Most Dubious award in my personal sweepstakes. Written by a Certified Clinical Nutritionist, it's heavily footnoted (100+ footnotes). At the end of the footnote, there's a link to the endnotes at Mothering Magazine's website. A link that doesn't work. I'm sure they'll fix it eventually.
The author has a PhD "in Nutritional Sciences and Anti-Aging Therapies" from an accredited distance-learning University in Cincinnati. This University prides itself in providing people with the freedom to design their own interdisciplinary PhD (and other) degrees. A recent accreditation review ordered unspecified changes to the University's doctoral programs. (http://www.tui.edu/prospective/notice.asp?strLink=Bb.8
) A recent position paper by a panel of 51 leading aging researchers claims, basically, that anti-aging therapies are snake oil. Read it for yourself at http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?art...A8809EC588EEDF
The author of the article claims elsewhere (http://www.t-mag.com/nation_articles/302poison.jsp
) that the prevalence of soy in the American diet is the result of soy industry manipulations. She doesn't seem to have anything to say about the huge body of research evidence regarding the positive health effects of dietary soy.
The article's tone is so over-the-top, and so one-sided, that I can't help suspecting that the author is a person on a crusade. (Something I think I see a lot of in this issue of Mothering, anyway.) To me, the article reads like a remake of Reefer Madness
, with a different evil weed in the starring role. And the way it is written makes me more, rather than less, suspicious of the author's methods.
|...in the years since soy formula has been in the marketplace, parents and pediatricians have reported growing numbers of boys whose physical maturation is either delayed or does not occur at all. Breasts, underdeveloped gonads, undescended testicles (cryptorchidism), and steroid insufficiencies are increasingly common. Sperm counts are also falling.
This statement is a logical fallacy so old it has a Latin name (Post hoc ergo propter hoc
; after this, therefore because of this). It's also short on detail. The author doesn't say what "years" are in question. It's easy to read this statement as cause-and-effect, yet the author doesn't make that claim, does she? Notice that she does not
say that there is a link between soy formula and these "reported" (any guesses what that means?) phenomena. Presumably if there had been a real association in the published research, she would have said so.Or rather, trumpeted so. What other things have occurred during those sinister years since soy milk came along to poison us all? Nuclear bomb tests? Pesticides, plastics, and pharmaceuticals in drinking water? Aspartame? Increased per capita caffeine consumption? Elevated mercury in fish? Type II diabetes in children under 6? More TV violence?
And the addition of the technical term for undescended testicles, cryptorchidism, adds nothing to the text but vaguely medical sheen. Hm,
we're supposed to think, the author used a big word, so she must know what's she's talking about.
What I think is, Hm, the author used a big word redundantly. I wonder why.
|There's nothing natural about these modern soy protein products. Textured soy protein, for example, is made by forcing defatted soy flour through a machine called an extruder under conditions of such extreme heat and pressure that the very structure of the soy protein is changed. Production differs little from the extrusion technology used to produce starch-based packing materials, fiber-based industrial products, and plastic toy parts, bowls, and plates.
Yet another new vocabulary word, extruder
, right next to the scary, un-"natural" words machine
, extreme heat and pressure
, and plastic
. An extruder is simply something that shoves stuff through a hole. Remember those Play-Do presses? Pasta machines? Cookie presses? Pastry tubes? Extruders, all. She might as well have said, "Pasta is made by forcing wet flour, mixed with sodium chloride and raw eggs (a known cause of salmonella contamination), through a machine that utilizes extrusion technology, the same basic process used to make razor wire, fuel rods for nuclear reactors, and synthetic petro-pharmaceuticals." Go feed that to your baby.
And also, "The very
structure of the soy protein is changed? Please. Does she mean "very" as in, "our very
way of life is threatened, under our very
kind of "very"? Lots of things change the very structure of proteins. Cooking it. Dissolving it in water. Drying it. Digesting it doesn't just change the structure; digestion utterly destroys the structure. Frying an egg changes the structure (excuse me, the very
structure) of the protein, irreversibly. A PhD in nutrition knows better, and if she meant something specific, you'd think she'd have said so.
The author may or may not be right about her thesis. The science she's pointing to may be good. But the way the point is presented pegs the needle on my bullshit-meter. And good science, and this is my point, doesn't need dishonest rhetorical tricks.
I'm looking forward to going through some of the sources for this article, assuming Mothering puts them on the Web site. I'm betting dollars to (fat-free, low-carb, organic spelt flour) donuts that the majority were read with a selective eye to bad news about Demon Soy. I won't keel over in astonishment if the major findings from a lot of the studies contradict her thesis, but were somehow "missed" in her analysis. In short, I smell a rat.
Full disclosure: even though I eat the occasional fish, I am indeed mostly vegetarian, primarily because I don't believe in killing unnecessary, because of the environmental damage that the American meat industry causes the environment, and the suffering of the animals in an inhumane system. But I haven't dedicated my life to ridding the world of the dreaded soy plant by eating it all, either.
There are clearly potential health problems associated with overeating soy, and like all foods, soy isn't appropriate for people who are allergic to it (duh), and also maybe not for breast cancer survivors, young babies, and other select groups. But soy is clearly not the toxic waste the author makes it out to be.
All that said, I'll happily eat (free-range) crow if I follow up on the author's footnotes and find the science to be sound. But if it is, I'll be surprised. Because sound science simply doesn't sound like this article.