By Hwaa Irfan
All of God’s nature has a place in this universe, and Islam we are told to learn from each other. Nothing has been made for play, not least the green soy bean. We have come to know of the soy through the traditional culinary practices of China for over 2,500 years before the western food industry discovered it. Two hot summers of fermentation (or equivalent thereof) kills the toxins to form derivatives what we have come to know as soy sauce, tamari, miso, tofu and tempeh all of which are rich in vitamin B¹² because of the process of fermentation, which also improves the flora of the intestinal tract and digestion itself. It was Buddhists monks who introduced soy sauce to Japan now the largest producer of tamari. The thick dark rich soy sauce, tamari is a Japanese word meaning to accumulate, derived from the fermentation of soya beans- Glycine max is rich in niacin, manganese and protein. Yet, traditionally, these derivatives are consumed in small amounts. An example of their wisdom in food is making miso soup with a seaweed stock. The wisdom of this is that soybeans contain a thyroid depressant, and seaweed being rich in iodine counters the effect.
Get Rich Quick With Soybean
Soy took on a new life under the auspices of the U.S. regulatory body the Food and Drugs Administration, FDA in 1999 . The aim was to cut imports and to increase local production claiming soybean as a health food. It was the beginning of governmental support for health foods with the FDA claiming that a soy diet would reduce the growing problem of heart disease in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, USDA, developed a soybean promotion campaign, Soybean Promotion and Research along with a new Act, the Consumer Information Act [7 U.S.C. 6301-6311]. Passed in 1991 under the 1990 Farm Bill, a path forward was laid for the planting, production, research, and genetic modification of soybean to expand production for both domestic consumption, and export.
The Health Claims
Since then, numerous by-products of soybean have come onto the market fitting the health food scene. To add to the conundrum, much of which like U.S. corn is genetically modified. The hype supported by many experts, has led many to believe that soybeans:
- Are good for heart disease
- Makes the bones stronger
- Contains cancer fighting properties
That the isoflavones in soybeans:
- Are nature’s estrogen
- Eases menopausal symptoms, including increase bone density
- Reduce risk of heart disease
- Fights osteoporosis
- Protect against prostrate problems
- Lowers bad cholesterol
- Are nature’s antioxidants
We have been told by experts to consume to servings of soy each day. From, edamame (whole soybeans), textured soy protein, soynuts, and soymilk. Soymilk has been presented as a natural alternative to cow’s milk, even mother’s milk. Replace cheese with tofu, replace mince meat with textured soy protein made to look and taste like meat.
Replacing Health with Wealth
Most governments and industry know that if one wants to convince the public, use mainstream media. In fact for many countries, including the U.S. the media is the propaganda machine for those in control. To strengthen the health food debate in favor of soy, we have been told that the isoflavone rich soy is similar to human estrogen, thus will not interfere with our own estrogen. If anything goes wrong it is the state of health of the consumer who is ill, maybe there is something wrong with the consumer’s estrogen receptors, otherwise soy products are the richest source of isoflavones, meaning if we do not eat soy products, the potential consumer is depriving their health of a much needed nutrient.
Despite the 250 research documents on the toxic effect of soy with the FDA; and because of the $80 million annual investment by USDA in promotion and research, needed information for the benefit of the public has not been forthcoming. In New Zealand, Soy Online Service encountered such politics in their initial attempt to alert their Ministry of Health over growing concerns pertaining to isoflavones phytoestrogen content in infant formula feeds. Noting the concern action was curtailed by the Ministry’s concern that soybeans represented big business for on the international commodity’s market for the U.S. However, 4 years later, in 1998, there was a change in direction.
It has already been established the negative impact on the body when it ingests hormones, interfering with the normal functioning of the body’s hormones as in the case of the pill, and the long term negative consequences on both the consumer, and the food chain. The “harmless” isolflavone which is an estrogen disrupts the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Taken in infant formula feed over a period of time, it leads to a malfunction of the thyroid gland.
In 2006, the American Heart Association declared that soy does not lower cholesterol, or prevent heart disease, and neither does it deserve FDA approval. Mounting evidence from reputable bodies such as the Journal of Clinical Investigation found that soy worsened the growing problem of specific form of heart disease known as cardiomyopathy, which is a weakening of the heart muscle.
Soy contains high levels of:
- Phytic acid .
- Trypsin inhibitors
- Toxic lysinoalanine
For example, in a study on rats carried out by S. Abdelaziz et al of the Faculty of Science in Beni-Suef, Egypt, it was found that the presence of phytic acid lowered and changed sex hormones, specifically testosterone.
- Phytic acid has also been found to reduce the absorption of dietary calcium
- Phytic acid stimulates, and increases the growth rate of cancer of the connective tissues known as rhabdomyasarcoma.
- Phytic acid inhibits the absorption of needed nutrients in the body because it binds to metals ions, copper, iron, manganese, and it also binds to calcium.
- Trypsin inhibitors found in dietary soy protein isolate had a negative effect on the pancreas causing hypertrophy.
In a study in the U.K., on premenopausal women who were fed 60g of soy protein for 30 days, there was a reduction in the frequency of their cycle. Three months after cessation of the consumption of soy protein, the effects were still present. Genistein, another by-product of soybean has shown to prevent ovulation.
It also lowers sperm concentration, and acts as an endocrine disruptor, and consumed over 5 years causes endometrial hyperplasia. Soy supplements have been reported to decrease the libido by 70% in rats, but do we wait for the equivalent to happen, if it is not happening already in humans?
Whatever one’s conclusion is, the reality is that one can no longer depend on others to provide the vital information we need for a more balanced life. The Chinese were creative by extracting a healthy product out of the ambiguities of nature. The fermented soybean by-products (tempeh, miso, tofu, and all forms of traditionally made soy sauce, especially, tamari remain the safest and the most nutritional). There are always alternatives with the only real alternative for infants being mother’s milk. Besides if one explores more the less popular natural foods that are available, one might not only save on one’s health, but make savings in one’s budget as well!
Abdelaziz, S. et al. Phytic Acid Exposure Alters AflatoxinB1-induced Reproductive and Oxidative Toxicity in Albino Rats (Rattus norvegicus). http://ecam.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/full/nem137v1
Colbin, A. “Food and Healing”. Ballantine Books, U.S. 1986.
Daniel, K “Soy Not Healthy for the Heart”. http://www.theepochtimes.com/n2/content/view/41802/
Germain, G et al. “Phytic Acid Stimulates the Growth of a Human Rhabdomyosarcoma http://www.springerlink.com/content/88002l1g484nq007/
Gumbmann, M. et al. “Safety of Trypsin Inhibitors in the Diet: Effects on the Rat Pancreas of Long-Term Feeding of Soy Flour and Soy Protein Isolate”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3799282
Messina, V and Messina, M. “Is It Safe to Eat Soy? http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/soymessina