Soy Controversy

Questions concerning the use of soy have been recently raised lest it is incorrectly perceived as a panacea of health. As we know, there is no special panacea for all heath problems. The many good and needed health promoting foods and food supplements continue to be most effective to the degree they are used in balance with many other factors. To search for the one "magic pill" is looking for one thing that will correct conditions usually resulting from a series of wrongs. It shows a lack of understanding of the complexity of the living system as well as being irresponsible by not considering the whole. 

Foods are not composed of only one or two nutrients though we often look to specific foods for a few specific nutrients of health benefits. Any true food is already a living system unto itself from which we get the living energy in these already functional living components. When we ingest it we get the whole system. For example, while eating a lot of broccoli or other plants of the cabbage family for components that hedge against cancer, we know it also has components that down-regulate the conversion of T4 to T3; hence, low energy. Thinking to enhance the complex immune system on low energy is contraindicated. Thus it is better to eat a moderate amount of broccoli as well as other balanced foods to keep our own unique system balanced. As a general rule, we should supplement only when necessary to rebalance a system. At present the need to rebalance is enormous, but we should not operate on the "fear of getting something" but on identifying the deficiency, finding what will correct it and knowing when it is sufficient. The Nutritional Therapy Association teaches many low cost tests to provide this kind of helpful insight.

Phytic acid, found in most seeds, can be excess or deficiency. "Phytic Acid in Health and Disease" by J. Zhou and J. Erdman, Jr. in Clinical Reviews and Food Science and Nutrition, 35(6):495-508 (1995) summarizes the health effects of phytic acid (PA), a major phosphorous storage compound of most seeds and cereal grains. PA has the strong ability to chelate multivalent metal ions, especially zinc, calcium and iron. Excessive binding can result in very insoluble salts that are poorly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, which results in poor bioavailability of minerals. Alternatively, the ability of PA to chelate minerals has been reported to have some protective effects, such as decreasing iron-mediated colon cancer risk and lowering serum cholesterol and triglycerides in experimental animals. PA is also considered to be a natural antioxidant and is suggested to have potential functions of reducing lipid peroxidation and as a preservative in foods. Certain inositol phosphates, which may be derived from PA, have been noted to have a function in second messenger transduction systems (proper membrane/DNA messenger function for cell function regulation of growth and differentiation). Processing to remove these phytates such as inositol 6 phosphate is possible. The hydrolysis (breaking down) of mineral chelate (phytates) by phytases in the human gastrointestinal tract from dietary plants, bacterial flora and intestinal mucosa, is also possible. This hydrolysis produces inositol and would probably liberate the bound minerals. The argument for the hazards of phytates is probably only supported by the extreme diets where a moderate diet offers normal health benefit. "Antioxidant Functions of Phytic Acid", by Graft and Eaton in Free Radical Biology and Medicine, Vol 8, 61-69, 1990, discusses phytates serving as natural antioxidants in seeds to serve also for binding iron in the gut and prevent it form oxidizing fats, etc. It lists soy as 1.4% phytate by weight while wheat is 4.8%.

Heat processing removes several unwanted aspects from soy. Raw soy contains trypsin inhibitors. Heat used for the isolation of soy protein destroys these trypsin inhibitors that would otherwise inhibit pancreatic function. Heat processing also destroys toxic haemagglutinin, a lectin/antibody that agglutinates red blood cells that would be very dangerous if uncooked soy were used, especially for infant soy formulas. In 1917, uncooked soy was noted to inhibit digestion. 

Protease inhibitors isolated from soy have been observed to inhibit the progression of tumors. Ann Kennedy from the University Penn school of Medicine has been studying the effect of highly anti-carcinogenic protease inhibitors from soy known as Bowman-Birk inhibitors. The potential for the use in cancer patients is now under investigation as suggested by a recent study in Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev; 9(1): 43-7,2000. Low cancer mortality rates by Seventh Day Adventists and by the Japanese diet also suggests the presence of these phytonutrients.

The presence of endocrine disruptive and goitrogen substances is probably the most important point in the soybean biochemistry and human nutrition discussion. High levels of isoflavones are reported to  "exert modest hormonal effects in premenopausal women" (J. Clinical Endo. Metab 1999, Jan:84(1)192-7)

That is, the 128mg per day group had lower levels of T3 while no effect was observed in the 64mg group. Bio-Soy Flavones, clinically used to help lessen the effects of hot flashes, supply 50 mg of soy isoflavones per capsule. Excessive use of isoflavones may interfere with thyroid gland function. The mechanism is implied in an article by R.L. Divi et al, in Biochem. Pharmacol 1997, Nov 15: 54(10): 1087-96, as being that of inhibition of thyroid peroxidase (TPO) as well as inhibition of thyroxine synthesis. It notes the induction of goiter and thyroid neoplasis in rodents. Seek a balance clinically because individually…..

The bioavailability of soybean isoflavones depends upon gut microflora in women. It is a problem because human isoflavone bioavailability depends upon the relative ability of gut microflora to degrade these compounds. In vitro anaerobic incubation of human feces showed that intestinal half-life of diadzein and genistein may be as little as 7.5 and 3.3 hours respectively. X. Xia et al., (J. Nutri. 1995;125:2307-15)

The using of infant soy formulas with phytoestrogens is raising serious questions of thyroid and sexual development."Comments on Isoflavones in Soy-Based Infant Formulas" from Correspondence in the J. Agric. Food Chem. 1998, 46, 3395 gave the following.  "The potential for phytoestrogens, including isoflavones, to affect infants adversely is of particular concern, since it is possible that a hormone imbalance in early life can permanently affect sexual development and fertility" (U.K. Department of Health, 1996). Swiss Federal Health Service advised the following.  "Taking in to account the very limited knowledge on the possible adverse effects of an isoflavone exposure in newborns and infants, it is demanded that soy based infant formulas containing isoflavones should be used only under strict medical indications and a lack of alternative products" (Zimmerli et al., 1997). There has been a documented relationship between soy formula consumption and a high amount of phytoestrogens in the bloodstream published in the Lancet, July 5, 1997 issue, involving a study of 7 infants. Wouldn't it be wise to find infant formulas where these phytoestrogens have been processed out? 

The isolated soy protein used in GamOctaPro contains the isoflavones Diadzein and Genistein. Its isolated soy protein is processed for retention of the isoflavones while some soy products remove these beneficial plant compounds. The range of isoflavones will vary according to variety, growing conditions, soil and other factors involved in processing. One serving (1 ounce) of GamOctaPro typically has 3.75 to 18.0 mg of Diadzein, 12.0 to 37.7 mg of Genistein, 1.25 to 62.2 mg of Glycitein, giving a total of 17.0 to 117.9 mg of total isoflavones.

Soy protein may reduce cardiovascular risk through reducing plasma cholesterol, increasing bile acid excretion, increasing LDL receptor activity, increasing thyroxine and thyroid-stimulating hormone, reducing cholesterol absorption, reducing the susceptibility of LDL to oxidation, increasing arterial compliance and by enhancing estrogenic activity of soy isoflavones which include genistein, daidzein and glycetein. "Soy Protein, Isoflavones and Cardiovascular Disease Risk," Lichtenstein AH, J Nutr, 1998;128:1589-1592 

The bottom line is, like everything else, there must be a balance. In this one food we have a various number of balancing as well as interfering nutrients to draw from. That is, too much of a needed nutrient is toxic when it is enough to disrupt the biological system and too little of the same disrupts the biological system in a state of a deficiency. Don't throw out the baby with the bath water. Soy properly used is a wonderful food and/or supplement. We need natural antioxidants, metal ion chelators, phytoestrogens and a source for inositol phosphates for second messenger transduction in the right balance with other nutrients. If there are free radicals, heavy metal poisoning, unfavorable lipid levels, high cardiovascular risk, or phytoestrogen needs, check for the various aspects of soy that offer specifics to be part of the solution for an individual's balancing.