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Is Soy Healthy?

Soy has copped a bad rep. I very commonly hear people say that they avoid soy because “it’s bad for women” or “it’s estrogenic” or “it gives men man-boobs.” Some of the time, if you ask people why they avoid soy, they can’t really tell you, but they’re entirely adamant it’s the best thing for health. Certainly, there are people who are legitimately allergic to soy, and other subsets of individuals who may benefit from limiting their intake. For others though, soy foods can be a delicious addition to a healthy diet. Let’s tackle the myths.

Is soy healthy?

Is soy estrogenic?

Soy contains isoflavones, a type of phytoestrogen, which work as Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulators, meaning that they have a far weaker estrogenic activity than human estrogen. They have a pro-estrogenic activity at some sites in the body, and an anti-estrogenic activity at others. With soy consumption, we typically see weakly pro-estrogenic activity in the bones, and anti-estrogenic activity in the breast and uterus tissue. Genistein in soy has a 7-30x greater binding affinity for Estrogen-beta receptors, found in bones, over Estrogen-alpha receptors, found in the reproductive tissues.1

Will Soy give men man boobs?

Soy consumption, at normal consumption levels, does not have any feminizing effects on men. Total or free testosterone levels, and semen parameters are not affected by soy consumption.2

A 60 year-old man was found to develop gynecomastia associated with his soy milk consumption. However, it was reported that he was consuming around 3.5 litres of soy milk a day. Due to the soy isoflavone’s hugely greater affinity for Estrogen-beta receptors over Estrogen-alpha, it takes a tremendous consumption of soy, far above the norm, to see these kind of results.

Does soy increase breast cancer risk?

Evidence based on large case-control trials suggest that soy intake at the level seen in Asian populations may be protective against breast cancer.4

In those who have breast cancer, soy may also be protective. In a pooled analysis of both Chinese and American women, isoflavone intake of over 10mg was associated with a 17% reduced risk of dying from breast cancer, and 25% lower risk of breast cancer reoccurring.5

Soy may be particularly protective in post-menopausal populations 6, and when consumed in childhood and adolescence.7,8 In post-menopausal women, high soy intake reduced recurrence of ER- cancers by 36% and ER+ cancers by 35%.9

Soy is also especially protective in BRCA mutation patients; with the highest quartile of soy intake associated with a 61% reduced risk of breast cancer in BRCA1 and BRCA2 carriers, and highest meat intake associated with almost a doubly higher risk.10

Soy consumption may even be more protective in vegetarians, since the isoflavone daidzein can be metabolised by those with equol-producing bacteria in their intestines into a compound called S-equol. One study showed vegetarians were 4.25 times more like to be equol-producers than non-vegetarians.11

 

Plant-based

The best things about soy

So now we’ve cleared up some of the misconceptions surrounding soy products, let’s look at more reasons why we might want to include them in our diet:

The amino acid composition: When we talk about quality of protein we refer to the composition of amino acids in that protein, and the digestibility of that protein. Soy protein isolate has a digestibility of 95% (rivalling the majority of animal proteins), whilst tofu has a digestibility at 93%. The Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS) is based upon both its digestibility and its proximity to an amino acid content required by humans for good health. Soy protein isolate is given a PDCAAS of 1.00 (the maximum score), since its amino acid composition is excellent, and due to the removal of fibre, its digestibility is extremely high. Tofu and beef are both given PDCAAS of 0.9 or higher, demonstrating that soy foods make any claims of inferior protein on a plant based diet, obsolete.12

May lower risk of breast and prostate cancer
We’ve already discussed the potential reduction in risk of breast cancer seen with soy consumption. It is also proposed that soy consumption may be associated with a decrease in prostate cancer incidence too.13

Lowers cholesterol.
Soy protein consumption has been shown to lower both Total and LDL cholesterol, particularly in those with elevated cholesterol.14  Soy consumption may be associated with prevention of coronary artery disease. 15

Extremely nutrient dense
Aside from amino acids and antioxidants, soy foods are extremely dense in minerals including iron, zinc and choline. Soy foods are a great source of choline on a plant based diet, which is critical for acetylcholine production, a neurotransmitter required for memory, attention span, REM sleep and the function of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Estrogen in dairy versus phytoestrogens in soy
Unlike soy’s selective estrogen receptor modulating properties, dairy milk has been shown to be the highest source of dietary estrogen in the American diet, supplying 60-80% of ingested female sex steroids.16

One trial explored the hormonal implications of consuming cow’s milk and noted “After the intake of cow milk, serum estrone (E1) and progesterone concentrations significantly increased, and serum luteinizing hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone and testosterone significantly decreased in men. Urine concentrations of E1, estradiol, estriol and pregnanediol significantly increased in all adults and children.”17

Consumption of dairy products may be associated with prostate cancer growth. In 14 separate petri dish experiments, exposure to milk increased the growth of LNCaP prostate cancer cells by over 30%. 18,19

Things to be noted

Choosing the right kind of soy.
It is very important when choosing soy products that we consume healthful, minimally processed, organic and non-GMO products, wherever possible. This can include: edamame, soy beans, tofu or tempeh. Packaged, processed goods containing soy are unlikely to be health-promoting, and soy protein isolate should be avoided for reasons discussed later.

Those with thyroid issues may need to be wary.
Soy consumption may exacerbate thyroid dysfunction when consumed by those with insufficient iodine consumption, and may be best avoided on minimised by those with existing or subclinical thyroid disorder. 20

Soy protein isolate and IGF-1
Animal protein consumption is associated with an increase IGF-1, implicated in the growth of cancers.21  However, because of its high levels of certain amino acids, excess soy consumption is also associated with increased IGF-1, and existing studies indicate that 3-5 servings a day is the safe upper range for consumption.22 Soy protein isolate, where the fibre and other beneficial nutrients are removed may more readily raise IGF-1 levels than less processed soy products.23

So, that’s it; I like to enjoy about two servings of organic, non-GMO tofu or tempeh a day because of its amazing nutritional profile and health protective properties. It took me a while to discover how to prepare my soy foods in a way that I truly enjoyed, and now I positively crave. I’ve put together some recipes to get you started on incorporating more healthy soy foods into your diet. Enjoy!

References

  1. McCarty MF. Isoflavones made simple – Genistein’s agonist activity for the beta-type estrogen receptor mediates their health benefits. Med Hypotheses. 2006;66(6):1093-1114. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2004.11.046
  2. Messina M. Soybean isoflavone exposure does not have feminizing effects on men: a critical examination of the clinical evidence. Fertil Steril. 2010;93(7):2095-2104. doi:10.1016/j.fertnstert.2010.03.002
  3. Martinez J, Lewi J. An Unusual Case of Gynecomastia Associated with Soy Product Consumption. Endocr Pract. 2008;14(4):415-418. doi:10.4158/EP.14.4.415
  4. Wu AH, Yu MC, Tseng C-C, Pike MC. Epidemiology of soy exposures and breast cancer risk. Br J Cancer. 2008;98(1):9-14. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6604145
  5. Nechuta SJ, Caan BJ, Chen WY, et al. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: an in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012;96(1):123-132. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.035972
  6. Fink BN, Steck SE, Wolff MS, et al. Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Breast Cancer Survival among Women on Long Island. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev. 2007;16(11):2285-2292. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-07-0245
  7. Korde LA, Wu AH, Fears T, et al. Childhood Soy Intake and Breast Cancer Risk in Asian American Women. 2009. doi:10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-08-0405
  8. Ou XS, Jin F, Dai Q, et al. Soyfood Intake during Adolescence and Subsequent Risk of Breast Cancer among Chinese Women 1.; 2001. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/cebp/10/5/483.full.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  9. Asian Pacific Organization for Cancer Prevention., International Association of Cancer Registries. Post-Diagnosis Soy Food Intake and Breast Cancer Survival: A Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies. Vol 14. Asian Pacific Organization for Cancer Prevention; 2000. http://journal.waocp.org/article_27665.html. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  10. Ko K-P, Kim S-W, Ma SH, et al. Dietary intake and breast cancer among carriers and noncarriers of BRCA mutations in the Korean Hereditary Breast Cancer Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;98(6):1493-1501. doi:10.3945/ajcn.112.057760
  11. Setchell KDR, Cole SJ. Method of Defining Equol-Producer Status and Its Frequency among Vegetarians. J Nutr. 2006;136(8):2188-2193. doi:10.1093/jn/136.8.2188
  12. Davis B, Melina RD VM. Becoming Vegan: The Complete Reference to Plant-Based Nutrition (Comprehensive Edition). Summertown, Tennessee, USA: Book Publishing Company; 2014.
  13. van Die MD, Bone KM, Williams SG, Pirotta M V. Soy and soy isoflavones in prostate cancer: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BJU Int. 2014;113(5b):E119-E130. doi:10.1111/bju.12435
  14. Taku K, Umegaki K, Sato Y, Taki Y, Endoh K, Watanabe S. Soy isoflavones lower serum total and LDL cholesterol in humans: a meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(4):1148-1156. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.4.1148
  15. Cassidy A, de Pascual Teresa S, Rimbach G. Molecular mechanisms by which dietary isoflavones potentially prevent atherosclerosis. Expert Rev Mol Med. 2003;5(24):1-15. doi:10.1017/S1462399403006732
  16. Hartmann, Lacorn &, Steinhart. Natural occurrence of steroid hormones in food. Food Chem. 1998;62(1):7-20. doi:10.1016/S0308-8146(97)00150-7
  17. Maruyama K, Oshima T, Ohyama K. Exposure to exogenous estrogen through intake of commercial milk produced from pregnant cows. Pediatr Int. 2010;52(1):33-38. doi:10.1111/j.1442-200X.2009.02890.x
  18. Tate PL, Bibb R, Larcom LL. Milk Stimulates Growth of Prostate Cancer Cells in Culture. Nutr Cancer. 2011;63(8):1361-1366. doi:10.1080/01635581.2011.609306
  19. Qin L-Q, Xu J-Y, Wang P-Y, Tong J, Hoshi K. Milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer in Western countries: evidence from cohort studies. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16(3):467-476. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17704029. Accessed March 1, 2019.
  20. Marini H, Polito F, Adamo EB, Bitto A, Squadrito F, Benvenga S. Update on genistein and thyroid: an overall message of safety. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2012;3:94. doi:10.3389/fendo.2012.00094
  21. Salvioli S, Capri M, Bucci L, et al. Why do centenarians escape or postpone cancer? The role of IGF-1, inflammation and p53. Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2009;58(12):1909-1917. doi:10.1007/s00262-008-0639-6
  22. Nagata C, Shimizu H, Takami R, Hayashi M, Takeda N, Yasuda K. Dietary Soy and Fats in Relation to Serum Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1 and Insulin-Like Growth Factor-Binding Protein-3 Levels in Premenopausal Japanese Women. Nutr Cancer. 2003;45(2):185-189. doi:10.1207/S15327914NC4502_07
  23. Messina M, Magee P. Does soy protein affect circulating levels of unbound IGF-1? Eur J Nutr. 2018;57(2):423-432. doi:10.1007/s00394-017-1459-2

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Camilla Clare Naturopathy
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Chantelle Johnson
Chantelle Johnson
03:31 25 May 22
Amazing. I've worked with a few naturopaths and I've found naturopathy so very helpful on my health journey but Camilla... is next level! Such a supportive, kind and knowledgeable resource.read more
L Bratty
L Bratty
09:14 30 Nov 21
I cannot thank Camilla enough for her support and guidance helping me discover my health issues and setting me on the... path to getting my health back on track. I am so thankful I sought her advice, as I have seen drastic changes within a fortnight. I am looking forward to continuing my health journey with Camilla and would highly recommend for those seeking to improve their health in a natural way.read more
Emma Fabricius
Emma Fabricius
22:56 11 Sep 21
I cant ´t describe how grateful I am to have got in contact with Camilla! She really has an amazing knowledge about the... body and how it all works together on a different level than anyone I´ve ever worked with. I came to her to get help with my headaches, migraines and fatigue after years and multiple visits/treatments with different doctors, experts etc. without any luck. Instead of just recommending me a "quick-fix", she worked with me to find the underlying issues.I've been working with her for a couple of months now and she never fails to give me the highest quality treatment in all aspects. She is also super quick to respond to any question or concern I might have, which I really appreciate.She is also one of the kindest, sweetest and most understandable people you will ever meet. It is so comforting and calming to finally have found a person who truly cares about your health as she does (AND is vegan!!). I can´t recommend her enough!! Thank you Camilla :)read more
Punam Mann
Punam Mann
02:02 06 Sep 21
Camilla has been absolutely amazing and I highly recommend her. She understands and respects my vegan dietary choices... which I have struggled with other doctors and naturopaths. She patiently listens and created a thorough treatment plan for me. I have been on the treatment plan for a few weeks now and my symptoms have greatly reduced and I’m already feeling much better. I’m highly impressed by her prompt response to my emails. She is very knowledgeable and helpful and has made my healing journey extremely comfortable.Thank you Camillaread more
Fabiana Loddo
Fabiana Loddo
23:10 20 Jul 21
In the past, what I found difficult with doctors was the fact that they did not listen to me; they literally finished... the sentences on my behalf all the time, rushing a diagnosis!Camilla is such a great listener, she really took all the possible information from me, she studied my case meticolously and came up with a cure which makes a lot of sense...and she explained it to me! Some other practitioners just prescribe lots of things and do not even explain what is cointained in those supplements/herbs and what they are specifically for.I highly recommend Camilla to all the ones who want a "same-level" relationship which their practitioner and not a "yes, I trust you, you are the expert" kind of relationship.Thank you Camilla!read more
Julien Fouquet
Julien Fouquet
11:31 19 Jul 21
I'm so glad I went to see Camilla, being vegan it's nice to find a naturopath who shares the same values.She asked me... a lot of questions during the initial consult, I felt that she was genuinely trying to help. After a few weeks and some tests done, she made a very detailed treatment plan which was very thorough and well explained.After only a few weeks following the treatment plan, the symptoms greatly improved as my gut health got better.I'd highly recommend Camilla as she has great knowledge combined with a caring and effective holistic approach.read more
Charlene G
Charlene G
02:35 18 Jul 21
I truly wish I found Camilla earlier and I HIGHLY recommend her to anyone looking for a naturopath! I've been seeing... her for a few months now and I'm constantly impressed at how thorough, knowledgeable and passionate she is. I've had gut and hormonal issues for as long as I can remember, and from the get-go, I felt Camilla was truly invested in finding the underlying causes and helping me resolve them. She is also the warmest, kindest person - an absolute joy to work with.I've already seen such vast improvements in my health, and for the first time in my life, I'm confident that my issues can well and truly be resolved. I also really appreciate working with a fellow vegan who not only understands my values, but is equally passionate about them too.Thank you so much, Camilla! I cannot recommend her enough!read more
Libby Penney
Libby Penney
07:09 05 Jul 21
I am so grateful I have found Camilla. We hit it off straight away and she understands me. Her knowledge is second to... none. She goes above and beyond and has helped me so much, so quickly. I honestly don’t know what I’d do without her. Thank you Camilla.read more
Matt Gussin
Matt Gussin
16:41 22 May 21
I've had a pretty horrid time with gut and fatigue problems for over two years and in this time, I have seen countless... doctors, naturopaths, gastroenterologists, Chinese medicine practitioners and so on...Some of which told me to stop my vegan diet, so this was when I searched for a vegan Naturopath and found Camilla.Camilla has been nothing but outstanding since our first contact. She is the first person in my health journey who I feel is genuinely invested in my health and has worked tirelessly to help and provide answers. She is always quick to reply to my lengthy emails and although currently at the early stages of my treatment, every piece of advice and treatment given has been based off facts and logical reasoning.I really recommend Camilla. I have felt very comfortable with her from day one and you will get someone who is knowledgeable, passionate but most importantly, will do her utmost to help you through any problem.read more
Sophie Smith
Sophie Smith
02:36 22 May 21
I would without a doubt recommend Camilla to anyone looking for a naturopath. She is so warm, caring, knowledgable and... helpful. I sought Camilla’s help to work on my severe PMS, heavy and painful periods and PTSD and mental health. From the moment I saw her she went above and beyond and is always there to help whenever I have any questions or concerns. I have just started my treatment plan and feel confident that I will see an improvement with my concerns.Thank you so much Camila xread more
Laura Harper
Laura Harper
02:59 07 Apr 21
I have been working with Camilla for a couple of months now with the aim of treating and managing hair loss, stress,... and anxiety. Camilla's process is incredibly thorough and informative and it has been amazing to not only feel better, but learn SO much in the process. My treatment plan has been very manageable, and Camilla has always made sure I understand why we are doing things rather than just telling me. This ​has really helped me to feel more in control and kept me committed to the lifestyle changes. Prior to working with Camilla, I felt a pretty overwhelmed with information, none of which I could be certain was true or even relevant to my symptoms whereas Camilla's process is so personal, and completely tailored to the individual.Camilla has been so kind, and understanding and has made the whole experience as comfortable and easy as possible. I have been shocked by how quickly I began to feel positive changes, and cant wait to see them continue!read more
Millie Guest
Millie Guest
02:45 04 Mar 21
Camilla is an incredible naturopath. I was recommended by a friend. I was struggling with my energy levels and needed... help to figure out why. The consults were thorough and in-depth and camilla made me feel super comfortable the whole way through.I had bloods done which confirmed i was low on iron as she had predicted. She wrote me an amazing in depth treatment plan, which included when and how to take my supplements with loads of tips & tricks on how to get the most out of them and include more into my diet. She also gave me loads of great recipes to cook to help with my iron intake.It has been over a month into treatment and i feel super energetic and full of life again. It was exactly what i needed to help get back to myself.I couldn’t recommend her enough. If you’re struggling with anything her in-depth knowledge in her field will help you.Thankyou camilla.read more
Sophie Farrelly
Sophie Farrelly
03:42 29 Dec 20
Camilla is very knowledgeable, helpful and has a wonderful nature. She’s caring and goes above and beyond to help. I... can’t recommend her enough. Thank you!read more
J D
J D
02:07 06 Nov 20
Highly recommend. Camilla is a delight, very passionate and committed to getting clients back to their best!
Vivian Ruth
Vivian Ruth
09:03 28 Oct 20
I’m so grateful for the treatment that I received from Camilla. My results improved within a month!! She is very... attentive, knowledgeable and caring. I highly recommend her for everyone!!read more
Chloe Compton
Chloe Compton
10:20 24 Sep 20
I had several online consultations with Camilla. She was a pleasure to work with and very knowledgeable. Her treatment... plan has really helped me and improved my skin condition. Highly recommend.read more
Lilla Magyari
Lilla Magyari
11:16 01 Sep 20
Camilla is an amazing Naturopath! Her knowledge and enthusiasm is absolutely fantastic! She helped me a lot in the past... and still does whenever I need. You can count on her 100%. I only can recommend her!!! 💚 🌱 💚🌱💚🌱💚🌱💚read more
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