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There is also the hormonal problem stemming from soy consumption. Soy is high in isofavones, also known as phytoestrogens, since the mimic to a large degree the effects of the female hormone, estrogen. Studies have linked phytoestrogens to endocrine disruption, infertility in both men and women as well as an increased risk of breast cancer, especially in post menopausal women. There is some debate however on the correlation between soy and breast cancer, as some studies have found conflicting findings. The Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)in Germany found that there was a lack of evidence to substantiate the supplemental soy products marketed to post menopausal women available having a positive effect on bone density and a reduced risk of breast cancer, but that there was evidence that the soy products could indeed bring about breast cancer, and bring about negative changes in the thyroid.
Phytoestrogens are also linked to thyroid disorders and thyroid cancer, which ironically occurs more in Asian countries than anywhere else in the world, and has been definitively linked to soy intake (not at all the healthy picture painted by the media marketing of the healthy wonder food from the orient). While on the subject of health problems in Asia, it should also be noted that Soy based infant formula has been cited as causing asthma, stomach disorders, calcium deficiencies, thyroid and endocrine disorders, and many pediatricians are beginning to advise against it. The increased prepubescent breast development and pubic hair in girls in the U.S. has also been linked to estrogens found not only in the environment, such as PCB and DDE but also to early ingestion of soy formulas. This has found to be especially true among minorities that are more apt to use soy based formula.
Soy Products Are Not Major Sources Of Protein In Asian Countries
The idea that soy is a major source of protein in Asian countries is also false and a direct result of misinformation. Soybeans were first used as a food in China in the later part of the Chou Dynasty(246-1134 BC) when methods of fermentation were used, fermentation that removes a significant amount of the harmful anti-nutrients. This process has been traditionally done over long periods of time to create foods such as tempeh, natto and tamari. Before this time it was used as a rotation crop, grown to help enrich the soil, but not a s a food source.
Modern processing uses heat and chemical acid and alkaline washing, which does not remove as much of the phytic acid and can result in leaching of aluminum into the final product. As you can see there is nothing at all 'organic' about the process. That being said, soy is used in Asian countries, but almost always as a condiment or in small amounts in the presence of meat or fish, which reduces the mineral blocking effects of the phytate in the soy foods, and never in large quantities. A typical Japanese soy meal would consist of a small amount of tofu or miso as part of a mineral-rich fish broth, followed by a serving of meat or fish. The huge consumption of soy milk and tofu here in the West as a replacement for animal protein is far in excess of Asian norms. There does exist though, large marketing campaigns in Japan, China and other countries to promote the use of soy, very much as is being done in here in the West in an attempt to exploit the Asian market as well.
In the United States, especially, there is a very real information bubble, where the public is not aware of the habits and norms of people in other parts of the world, and the man on the street is easily convinced by the bombardment of media misinformation, since few take the time to validate the claims regarding the practices of other cultures that are presented to them as truth in electronic and print media. Few are also aware of the way in which marketing works, and never realize just how much we are all influenced somewhat by the constant stream of product driven information that we encounter in everyday life.
Soy Products Were Used By Monks To Lessen Sexual Desire
My own studies of traditional Japanese martial arts was a key factor in my reluctance to accept blindly the propaganda regarding the wonders of soy, and its illustrious Asian history. My teacher, who had studied in Japan for many years, had much to say about the subject. Large consumption of soy, I was told, came only in times of scarcity and famine.
He also related its use in the Buddhist monastic practices, that were very much a part of martial art traditions, for the suppression of sexual desire, and was commonly consumed by those leading vegetarian and celibate lives. He cautioned against it for those reasons, and stated that the vegetarian based diet of the Japanese people changed drastically with the increased contact with the Western World in the late 1800's and the increased consumption of meats and fish over foods such as soy were largely responsible for the sudden increased height of the average Japanese citizen by the early 20th century.
Even more concerning is the fact that almost all the soybeans grown here in the United States are genetically modified crops, thanks largely in part to mega corporations such as Monsanto. Most have little sense of what a genetically modified crop really is, simply put, it is a crop genetically bred to survive a specialized and patented pesticide formula that would ordinarily kill the plant. In short, soybeans have higher concentrations of pesticides than any other crop, and it is somewhat laughable that so many soy products are marketed as being a natural food.
What is even more saddening is that most of the vegetarian targeted soy foods and drinks contain glutamic acids (MSG)to enhance flavor. Soy is actually used to create Monosodium Glutamate, and though many soy foods have glutamic acid additives, usually disguised in the ingredient listings as natural spices, natural flavorings or a host of other legally approved, but misleading names.
Soy Products- A Billion Dollar Industry Not Focused On The Public’s Health
In the end, thanks to deceptive and misleading marketing, and the need for profit at all costs, this once almost unknown bean has invaded almost every part of our lives, and has gone from being a food shunned by the poor in other parts of the world, to a food that affluent Westerners consume in large quantities.
It is everywhere and in almost everything, making billions out of a crop that before was not considered a food source here in the U.S. until fairly recently, and has been one of the leading motivations towards genetically modified foods. It is hard to escape, (there is even soy in most tuna fish brands these days) however an educated and informed understanding of the food itself would persuade any rational thinker to avoid it like the plague. On a physical level, anyone interested in maximizing muscle mass, reducing body fat would do well to avoid it, as would anyone not wishing to compromise their overall health.
Information contained in this article is not meant to treat, diagnose illness, nor substitute for medical counsel and is intended for purposes of information and education only. Consult your physician before modifying your diet or starting any exercise program.
Copyright 2009 by Kevin Richardson, Naturally Intense NYC Personal Trainer.
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