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The "Soy" article in this issue's 'Mothering' - Page 5

post #81 of 127
I don't have a link to the soy/dementia problem, but you can find it on a google search.

The issue is soy protein islolate, which is processed with aluminum salts- apparently this is the type of aluminum that crosses the blood/brain barrier. It has been linked to alzeimers.
post #82 of 127
Wheat is not a problem for me at all, and I apparently am not allergic to soy oil.
Even if you aren't allergic to soy oil, I would try my best to avoid it. According to Rebecca Wood in "The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia", soy oil is a by-product of the soy industry, and is highly refined. Unrefined soy oil is no better, it has an unpleasantly intense aroma and flavor; it is considered toxic in traditional Chinese medicine, and is difficult to digest.
post #83 of 127

You, too, can help prevent junk science

Thank you, ChristaN, for actual new information instead of anecdotes, panic, conspiracy theories, hypochondria, and platitudes. Very refreshing. Here's some more.

Before I write anything else, I want to express that nothing I write here should be construed as medical advice. I'm not a doctor, and wouldn't advise anyone on nutrition.

I'm writing at such length because I think bad science needs to be directly opposed. What makes bad science bad isn't that it comes to the wrong conclusions, although it does excel at that. Even the conclusions of science done well is often wrong, or at least incomplete, for a variety of reasons. Bad science is science that is biased, that doesn't weigh all the evidence, and especially, it is science that is used to further peoples' pet prejudices. Too many people use scientific papers like religious fanatics use the Bible--as proof texts for their own crackpot notions.

So all of the following is not about whether soy is "good" or "bad", whatever those uselessly simplistic words may mean in this context. It's about whether Kaayla Daniel's article is well-reasoned or not, and whether it includes all the evidence. So far, I say it's not and it doesn't, and I explain why below.

First, resources and responses:

The end notes for the article now appear on the Web at
Thanks, Mom.

When you see Web site links in this forum that supposedly "prove" that soy "has problems", "is dangerous", or whatever, note that they are almost all from http://soyonlineservice.co.nz. When everyone with a similar point of view can only ever find one source for their information, you've got to wonder. Furthermore, if you go to the site, you can read still more about revisionist history, "powerful industry" conspiracies, mysterious, vindictive squads of attorneys, "what they don't tell you about" (oh God, not "them" again), and so on. It's propaganda. Some of its conclusions may be true, but it's still propaganda.

In a previous item, EBM writes:
It is unlikely that the article was an attack on vegetarians or vegans. Why not do your own personal research and base your arguments for/against soy on the scientific data? If your research leads you to conclude that soy is harmful, look for an alternative for your diet. If it is not harmful, eat to your hearts content.

This really is not an issue of meat eaters diet vs vegan/vegetarians diet. Sheeesh.
I support this approach. But EBM, this may not be an issue of vegetarians vs. non-vegetarians for you and me, but it seems to be so for the author of the original article.

I decided to write this book because I saw so many clients and friends
suffering from vegetarian and near vegetarian diets. Most often the
chief culprit was soy.

-- Kaayla Daniel, Testosterone Magazine 302,
So I wouldn't be too sure that the article isn't an attack on vegetarianism as much as it is on soy.

Later, EBM writes:
I'm curious...

Why is the concept of soy being "potentially" harmful soooooo difficult to swallow?
Personally, I'm not upset about whether soy is "potentially" harmful. I'm upset about Mothering being willing to publish junk science. You can use "science" to prove anything you want if you're willing to pick and choose only those details from only those articles that match your preconceived notions. Read on for an analysis of one--just one--of the over 100 references that Daniel uses in her article.

Starrynight, the PubMed abstract for the study you were talking about is:
A maternal vegetarian diet in pregnancy is associated with hypospadias. BJU Int. 2000 Jan;85(1):107-13.

Read the abstract at:

You can read the full text of article at the publisher's Web site for free at:

Take a look at this excerpt from the hypospadias paper (one of Daniel's sources):

The consumption of soya as a substitute for meat is increasing in the UK, partly as a result of the recent problems with beef and partly from concepts of "healthy eating". It is now widely used in the food industry, with the advent of vegetarian-style meals, and it provides the highest concentrations of phytoestrogens (particularly isoflavones) of all edible plant matter [18,21]. However, the estimated daily exposure to exogenous oestrogens by consumers of soya is minimal compared to, e.g. that from oral contraceptives. Such low levels of exposure would perhaps indicate small risks (or benefits), as the biological activity of phytoestrogens is considered to be low. Nevertheless, extended prolonged exposure may cause phytoestrogens in the body to reach biologically significant levels. The possible effects on humans should not be dismissed until more experimental data are available. MacLusky [22] discussed the more indirect role of phytoestrogens; rather than having a direct oestrogenic effect, they may interact with other factors in the diet and lead to an interference with "normal oestrogen biosynthesis and action".
The comment about potential "biologically significant levels" I find a bit odd, given that the toxicology site (cited below) says that the body metabolizes and eliminates plant phytoestrogens, whereas other, synthetic organic endocrine disruptors, particularly some pesticides, accumulate.

All in all, though, the preceding paragraph from the hypospadias paper reads like good science. The study says that effects are "possible", not present; that phytoestrogens may interact with other dietary factors and interfere with hormones; that effects on humans shouldn't be ruled out with out more evidence. may cause... possible effects... may interact... more experimental evidence. This is how a scientist sounds when speculating about possible explanations for a phenomenon. The author is not making claims, but rather is speculating about what may be worth studying, given what is generally known about hormones. This is what good science sounds like.

Daniel's use of the hypospadias study is revealing. From reading her article, you'd think that the study proved that soy caused hypospadias. What the report actually says (read it for yourself) is that babies of vegetarian mothers in the study had five times the risk of hypospadias than those of non-vegetarian mothers. It speculates that soy may be involved, but shows no evidence to the contrary, and makes no claim. Yet Daniel treats it like a slam-dunk.

Other fun facts Daniel somehow missed in the original hypospadias study:
  • Dietary phytoestrogens were speculated as only one of the possible causes of the association. Other speculations included increased exposure of the mother to estrogen-disrupting environmental chemicals, particularly pesticides, or a possible, undetermined nutritional deficiency. There is also a 5% probability that the results were due to chance.
  • Hypospadias incidence varies widely around the world, and it's not clear why. No evidence was presented that it was associated with local soy consumption. That would be an obvious thing to consider if the scientists were trying to make a case that soy was causative, but it wasn't even mentioned.
  • Phytoestrogens have protective effects against several diseases, particularly breast cancer. (Other sources suggest that people who already have hormone-dependent breast cancer may want to avoid phytoestrogen-containing foods because phytoestrogens might encourage cell proliferation.)
  • None of the mothers who always ate organic vegetables had a child with hypospadias, but that sample size was too small, and so was not significant.
  • Moreover, the article says that food content tables don't provide enough information on phytoestrogen content to measure the quantity the mothers consumed.
  • The study even says that they can't link soy to hypospadias, because too few of the women in the study ate enough soy to be statistically significant. Somehow this little detail escaped Daniel's attention.
  • The article also mentions in passing that in Asia, "soybean products are a major component of the traditional diet". (Presumably Dr. Daniel will contact these researchers and straighten them out on this point. While doing so, she might also explain to them why Japanese women have over 16 times the concentration of soy metabolism products in their urine as do supposedly soy-infused American women, as this study claims. Might the mighty Urine Industry somehow be involved?)

So, rather than being a damning indictment of soy as a cause of hypospadias, the researchers find a relationship, in one group, between maternal vegetarianism and hypospandias in offspring. They speculate that dietary plant phytoestrogens are one possible cause among many, and say that the issue deserves further study, which it most certainly does. Daniel can't make a case that soy is dangerous, or causes hypospadias, based on this study. At least, not to anyone who has read it, and is paying attention. Yet she tries.

For very accessible background information on endocrine disruptors (which is the major theme of the soy article in Mothering), see the page:


  • What chemicals cause endocrine disruption?

Drugs have been specifically designed to treat hormone imbalance in humans. Diethylstilbesterol (DES), a drug with strong estrogenic properties administered to pregnant women until 1971 to prevent miscarriages, is a tragic example. Female children of mothers who took DES during pregnancy have a higher incidence of certain forms of ovarian and vaginal cancer. However, there are many drugs that mimic or otherwise affect hormone balance which are important to modern medicine. Other man made chemicals, with unintentional hormone-like activity include: pesticides such as DDT, vinclozolin, endosulfan, toxaphene, dieldrin, and DBCP, and industrial chemicals and byproducts such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and phenols. Some of these phenols are breakdown products of surfactants, found in soaps and detergents. Also implicated are heavy metals, plastics, cosmetics, textiles, paints, lubricants. Sewage treatment effluent may contain a variety of natural and man made endocrine disruptors, including natural hormones from animal and human waste.

Currently, there are no standard tests to determine if a chemical is an endocrine disruptor. However, both the Clean Water Act and the Food Quality Protection Act require the EPA to develop test methods by 1999. As many endocrine disruptors are thought to affect sex hormone function, and therefore reproduction, the findings in multigeneration animal studies, currently required for pesticide registration by EPA, can provide strong evidence of the potential for endocrine disruption.
  • What natural chemicals have endocrine activity?

There are natural chemicals in plants that have hormone-like activity. These chemicals, mostly phytoestrogens, are found in high levels in broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans, carrots, oats, rice, onions, legumes, apples, potatoes, beer, and coffee. Most phytoestrogens have weak activity (low potency) and people who consume diets rich in these substances may have a reduced risk of developing some hormone related diseases. However, the actual health risk or benefit of a diet rich in plant hormones is largely unknown. Some researchers argue that dietary consumption of plant hormones dwarfs the potential exposure from man made sources. (Emphasis added.)
Another source, this one specifically about phytoestrogens, is from the same site (a Web site about the science of toxins):

To close on a light note, I did run across a reference to one study that linked high tofu consumption to decreased mental functioning in older men. The study didn't explain whether eating tofu caused mental degeneration, or vice-versa.
post #84 of 127
Why not do your own personal research and base your arguments for/against soy on the scientific data? If your research leads you to conclude that soy is harmful, look for an alternative for your diet. If it is not harmful, eat to your hearts content.
post #85 of 127
I don't have time to check out all those links right now, but will later today. I do want to say that for every "scientific" finding on any one subject, there is always a counter finding by equally "reputable" scientists. Also, I have to agree with a couple of things: people overprocess really good things and make them bad, people eat too much processed/refined food and if soy doesn't bother you, eat it! If it does, don't! If my sister is allergic to eggs, she shouldn't eat them, but that won't stop me from eating them!
post #86 of 127

What is your opinion on this?
post #87 of 127
I'm not a doctor so can someone explain this in relation to the discussion on this thread?

post #88 of 127
I recieved my Mothering mag yesterday and read most of the article...but not all.

Unlike the majority of posters here, I supplemented my son with organic soy formula. I was atypical in this group. I tried unsucessfully (37 hospital hours) with a doula and my Bradley trained husband to have a natural childbirth and ended with a c-section, torn uterus and a infection which required an 8 day hospital stay with interveinous antibiotics and delayed milk letdown...the lactation consultants said they had never seen someone take so long. Once at home I had to pump and dump for a week because of more oral antibiotics...but I kept trying and did eventually letdown and worked on getting my supply up. Because of the antibiotics,I suspect, I had an attack of Crohn's disease...it was hard to keep up my weight and produce enough milk. I stayed ill and underweight until I weaned my son at 13 months. That said...I supplemented my breastfeeding with a ratio of about 20/80...or 30/70 respectfullly. The later number being breastfeeding. Sorry...I felt the need to defend myself!

We eat mostly all organic. We don't eat dairy and eat mainly free-range chicken and turkey and occasionally wild salmon. We don't eat much soy...my son doesn't care for it except for miso and the tofu chunks in that, and when I took ds of of soy formula I put him on rice milk. Now at 20 months he only drinks water and occasionally juice. We don't vaccinate (son is intact), and I use only natural cleaning products in the home and natural lawn care outside. We have distilled water delivery and are switching soon to in home reverse osmosis system. So I do my research for what is best for my family and my growing son, but after reading the article I panicked and thought...What have I done to my precious son! One of the first things I did this morning was a computer search of soy formula safety...and then checked here. After reading the responses...I am going to take this study with a grain of salt. My son is not hyper, very smart...if I do say so myself, and his testes are fine. I also found found it weird, as did Mamaofthree, that she mentioned the undesended testicle...I read that and thought, that is not right! Another brow raiser was the bit about delayed sexual development (or no develpment)problems in young boys and excelerated develpment in young girls have increased since soy formulas have hit the market, therefore it's soy that is causing these problems.

Thank you ftcmj for help in sorting this out and easing my mind. I will sleep better tonight!

edited to correct a spelling error...I am sure there are many more!
post #89 of 127
I just wanted to add that my concerns over soy did not originate from the Mothering article but from other sources (O'Crea, Mercola, etc)

Oh, and a naturpathic, VEGETARIAN, doctor who is dead set against meat/dairy.
post #90 of 127
Thanks for the links ftcmj. I read them with interest. I also found a couple other sites that talked about this. Apparently of the (nearly) 8000 boys in the study, there were 321 from vegetarian moms and 7 of them had hypospadias. The other 44 boys that had hypospadias came from omnivore moms. Frankly, the numbers are so small that I agree no conclusions can be drawn. I mean what caused the hypospadias in the moms that weren't vegetarian? Iron supplements and having the flu during the 1st trimester were also implicated, but again very small numbers. With only 7 vegetarian moms to go on it could just be a coincidence.

I also looked up what the rates of hypospadias were internationally. From what I read industrialized countries have more cases than non-industialized countries. I was particularly curious about Japan, since the average Japanese consumes quite a bit more soy than the average American. The studies I found on the web say the average Japanese consumes at least 50-80 grams a day, while the average American consumes only 5 grams. (Which makes sense then that Japanese women excrete more soy isoflavones in their urine.) While the rates of hypospadias in Japan have gone up in the past 20 years, they are still ten times less than what they are in the U.S. This seems contradictory to the soy causes hypospadias argument.
post #91 of 127
starrynight-- as someone else pointed out, perhaps the low incidence of hypospadias in Japan is due to the kinds of soy they consume?
post #92 of 127
Round-up Ready Soybeans, that obnoxious GMO invention, is made by splicing a gene for resistance to herbicides that occurs naturally in another plant (don't remember which one). Herbicides are not spliced into the DNA, that's not how genetic modification works.

I didn't like the article and smelled a rat. I want to thank the posters here who went to the time and energy to point out some of the fallacies and inflammatory language.

I have chronic hypothyroidism. I was diagnosed with it at age 11. It's a genetic thing, my mother and grandmother have the same problem. Since I first heard about possible links between thyroid function probs and soy, I have cut back some on my soy consumption, but I do think moderation is the key here. My mom has never eaten much soy, and she still has problems, so I'm still going to have to take that little pill every day, kwim?

Anyway, I do not eat unfermented/unprocessed soy products, e.g. edamame, because on the one occasion I did I very nearly drove my DH to needing a gas mask. I also eat tofu in moderation, and drink about a gallon a month of soymilk--I put it on my cereal and in my coffee.

I also try to eat a variety of other legumes and nuts, and I eat dairy--although that is directly the result of government machinations, because I get WIC and can't afford to turn down the free protein and calories it represents even though I leave the milk for DH, I eat some cheese and eggs. And once in a blue moon, a bit of fish in sushi (an extremely luxury item for me)

I do think moderation is the key, unless you're allergic to something. Just because it's an allergen doesn't make something bad for everyone. I do think there is something to the idea that many foods people eat today aren't ones they are well adapted to eating. But when you're a mutt of multiple ethnic backgrounds, it's kind of hard to look to your ancestors to see what they ate, and if what they ate isn't readily available then what?

I think people have to go with what works best with their families, and think moderation. A diet that relies on just a few staples is generally not as healthy as a varied diet. This is true whether the staple is potatoes, soybeans, rice, wheat, dairy, or anything else.
post #93 of 127

Opinion on this

Originally Posted by EBM

What is your opinion on this?
Propaganda. Not even particularly well-written. I'm not saying that the conclusions are necessarily untrue. In fact, I agree with a lot of the complaints, though not the diagnosis. If Rush Limbaugh and Noam Chomsky had a love child, this site is probably what he would write. Assuming the child inherited neither the former's wit (revolting as it is) nor the latter's intelligence.

But I don't want people to take my opinion. I just think they need to read critically. Of course, that's just my opinion.
post #94 of 127

PubMed link explanation (such as it is)

Originally Posted by EBM
I'm not a doctor so can someone explain this in relation to the discussion on this thread?

Well, EBM, I'm not a doctor, either, but I can explain what I think I understand about the abstract. I may be wrong about some of it, because I only have a little biology training. Don't make any health decisions based on what I say!!!

I think most doctors wouldn't understand the details of this research, though they'd probably get the gist. Molecular cell biologists with intimate knowledge of estrogen pathways probably feel right at home reading it.

The article title is Phytoestrogens and Their Human Metabolites Show Distinct Agonistic and Antagonistic Properties on Estrogen Receptor (ER){alpha} and ER{beta} in Human Cells.

So, first, that title. Whew. Cells communicate with each other by sending chemical messages back and forth. You've probably heard of a lot of these chemical messages--insulin is one. So is estrogen. A cell's membrane, which is sort of like its "skin", has specific molecules embedded in it called "receptors", which a specific message molecule can plug into. When a message molecules plug into receptors on a cell membrane, the cell responds in some way. For example, when insulin molecules bind to a cell's insulin receptors, the cell often responds by absorbing sugar from the blood. This title says that the estrogen-like chemicals in plants (like soy) increase and decrease specific responses in cells that are also increased and decreased by estrogen itself. So, basically, some of your cells think they're receiving messages from other cells that produce estrogen, when in fact, they're actually receiving a message from a soybean (so to speak). The "phytoestrogen" is so similar to estrogen that some cells are fooled, and react as if they have received an estrogen message.

Often, these messages interact a lot with one another. Just as smoke may make you salivate (barbeque), cough (cigarette), or run like hell (house fire), what a particular chemical message means depends on the other things going on in and around the cell, including and especially what other messages the cell is receiving.

These scientists have measured how several phytoestrogens (substances purified from soy and other foods) affect how cells respond to estrogen. The natural soy substances are broken down by the body in various ways, so the scientists also looked at the effect of some of the breakdown products ("metabolites").

What the scientists found is that it's possible that soy affects how the body responds to estrogen. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact (as the abstract says), it probably explains the well-documented health benefits of soy foods. Some diseases involve mixups in either the amount of estrogen, or how the body responds to estrogen. The scientists have measured what cells do in response to specific, purified phytoestrogens. What they find is that some substances intensify some estrogen effects, while others decrease the effects.

Their conclusion is that three specific substances in soyfoods (three phytoestrogens) may affect, for better or worse, with the messages estrogen sends in the body.

It's easy to jump to conclusions here and say, "Oh my gawd soy is going to screw up my estrogen and I'll get cancer/my children will be malformed/my breasts will fall off" or whatever. But that's not what this article says. It may actually be good for you, depending on what your physical state is, to decrease or increase the effect of estrogen on some of your cells. It may also be bad for you in some cases, or for some cells. Foods have all sorts of effects on our internal chemistry, not just drugs and hormones.

The result that soy may be both good and bad for you at the same time isn't too surprising. Cells and bodies are incredibly complex things, and they're very sensitive to all sorts of things in their environment. And lots of things can go wrong. Most things are probably both good for you and bad for you at the same time. Also, it usually depends on what's going on in your body.

For example, did you know that if you have cancer, Vitamin C might actually make things worse? Cancer researchers have discovered that cancer tumors require a lot of vitamin C, which has led to more research into the nutritional needs of cancer. Vitamin C might also interfere with chemotherapy by blocking chemo's ability to kill the cancer cells. See http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases...0916074820.htm

But the following article says that, in some cases, combinations of vitamins C and K3 (don't ask me, I don't know, either) can cause cancer cells to die:

These things aren't proven, they're just possibilities. But the examples show how there's no such thing as "good for you" and "bad for you", but rather "better for you" and "worse for you", depending.

Again, my point is not that Daniel is wrong. I don't know if she's wrong. Probably she's right about some things. It's that, in my opinion, her reasoning is bad, and (again in my opinion), her writing is propaganda. Science doesn't need propaganda. Evidence makes cases, handwaving doesn't.

I have a correction to make. Daniel didn't say that soy caused hypospadias, she correctly stated (as the study does) that hypospadias was linked to maternal vegetarianism. But she did so in a series of statements about soy--soy this, soy that, vegetarian/hypospadias, soy the other thing. That's why I misread. I still say the result is misleading because it is incomplete, and the hypospadias sentence appeared in a paragraph that was otherwise consistently about soy.
post #95 of 127

Good explanation . I don't think most doc's could have explained it as well as you did .
post #96 of 127
Wow, ftcmj! Thank you so much for your time and effort on this. I was tempted to be alarmed by the article, but my bs meter was humming too, so, like many previous posters, I simply made a mental note to make sure we aren't over-relying on soy. My dd has recently developed lactose intolerance, so she's eating more soy than she did before (soy yogurt, etc.) I was hoping to check out some of the sources, but wondered when I would have the time. Thanks for doing some of the work for me!

What *does* alarm me is that some people seem to welcome in Mothering *anything* that goes against the mainstream, regardless of it's accuracy or bias. The fact that many mainstream mags publish biased information doesn't mean that doing the same thing in reverse is warrented. The best thing my alma matter (Mount Holyoke College ) did for me was *not* give me job skills. (They don't teach you how to be a homeschooling SAHM -- Heaven forbid! :LOL) Rather, they taught me how to spot bias, "straw man" arguments, and propaganda in articles such as this. Unfortunately, I often find Mothering's "scientific" articles to be problematic in this way. Like ftcmj said, they may be correct in their conclusions, but I feel I have to take them with heavy doses of salt and skepticism. (Most of the articles in the cosleeping issue seemed to be a refreshing exception to this, however.) I love Mothering for lots of reasons, but I don't need to be titilated by every counter-cultural idea that comes across the radar. I'd have been much more interested in an article that presented the pros and cons of soy in a more balanced manner. An author doesn't need to scare me to get me to re-examine my choices in light of good information. I'm sure most Mothering readers are equally intellegent; articles like this don't give us enough credit, IMO.

edited to say: I don't mean to imply that MHC did not give me job skills -- my poorly written sentence could be read that way! I'm too tired to re-word it, though.
post #97 of 127
ftcmj, I really appreciate the input you've had on the soy article. Thanks!
I would like to correct your correction, however. You said, "I have a correction to make. Daniel didn't say that soy caused hypospadias, she correctly stated (as the study does) that hypospadias was linked to maternal vegetarianism." Daniel did get that right in the body of the article, but in the "how much is too much?" box, she wrote, "The evidence is mounting that greater numbers of boys with birth defects such as hypospadias are born to soy-eating vegetarian moms." Her citations on that point are a study of rats and the study that did find a higher rate of hypospadias in the vegetarian moms who participated but they were not found to have significantly higher soy intake. That doesn't seem like mounting evidence to me.
post #98 of 127
whoa, ftcmj!
i feel like i really know the whole deal now; thank you so much for putting all that effort and time into your posts!
post #99 of 127

Feeding Tofu to Babies/Toddlers?

Hi ! I am brand new to this message board. The soy article scared the living bejeezes out of me! I was so happy to see so many discussions on the subject. One question that still has not been answered for me.... Is it okay (beneficial even) to give babies/toddlers tofu as a finger food. Before this article and these posts... I had read (in mainstream and vege books & mags) that cooked cubed tofu was a "PERFECT" finger food for babies/toddlers. Now I have read several posts that say just the oposite, that it is dangerous ....? Can anyone help me ?

Thanks - Julia
:bf SAHM of Braden 6/03 and Calhoun : Chole : DH
post #100 of 127
Okay. It's perfectly logical.

The more processed the foods you ingest are, the less "good" they are for your body.

It's as simple as that.

ANYTHING IN MODERATION. Another logical point. Eating/drinking soy a few times a week is really no big deal. But many people eat a crapload of disgusting meat-wannabe products that are so dyed and processed and flavored that it's ridiculous. It's just common sense that eating a lot of processed foods - whether they're made from soy or not - is not good for you.

I don't see what's so confusing about that.
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