Monday, 8 October 2012

He was Sean, but now Sonia... after Soy

Here I am today to discuss another matter brought to me by my mother... by email, this time concerning soy. Well, my mum knows I'm a vegetarian, but I think she was seeking for advice from her son-the science researcher rather than her son-the vegetarian. She really killed my brains when back in 1999 I decided to go green and animal-friendly. But that is nothing when compared to when on the phone I respond to her "Pray a little to God" when things in the lab are not going as fast and accurate as I want, and I reply "My God is the Universe" and these last two months He hasn't been listening to me, and then I respectfully laugh and let it go. But Mum, she never lets it go. When I dismay her God she becomes ballistic. For instance, after telling her for the tenth time I am not a Catholic, and hear her reply that "Yes you are", just for me to say "No, I am in fact a Pantheist" for her to close the matter with a fierce "You are a Catholic because you were educated as a Catholic, so stop saying rubbish"... I feel like Sheldon! What can I say? I am a Pantheist but my mom believes me not... when in fact what she is afraid of is that her Catholic education, transmitted to me throughout my early years as a person, probably failed to give me more than the moral grounds to operate as a human (and that is great, mum, really!)... it didn't give me any real perception of the existence of Hell, Heaven, a furious Almighty God seeking revenge whenever I misbehave and a bunch of Saints that come to have dinner at your place just for trying to kill you when you failed to convert water in wine and perform twelve ready meals out of a single fish.

This time a 'crazy' email was sent to my mother; an evocative of the poisonous profile of soy. Incredible bullocks or quite truth? I had to investigate, but I've been so taken by my PhD that I could not spare much time doing a proper in-depth research through both literature and my own brains. So I stopped today for that.

Soy... There's flavoured and unflavoured soy milk, soy yogurt, soy beans, soy beansprouts, soy butter, soy this, soy that, you go find it, it's huge. Apparently the person who emailed my mum emailed a bunch of other people as these days you're just easily forwarded someone's fear, you freak out and immediately forward your fears to someone else and the long chain of terror is built in a matter of a few seconds. On the tip of your finger lies the generator of a long chain of misconceptions. But The Toxicologist Today's readers are not stupid, they get informed, they read and think about things. 

Obviously there are phytooestrogens (known commonly as feminine hormones) in soy, and these hormones are also known for their important role treating menopausal women because these same phytooestrogens mimic the human oestrogens, however with lower power, around 1000 times less [1]. Only this email states that this hormone, so related to beneficial effects like the reduction of hot flushes in menopausal women, protecting women against coronary heart disease, lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of osteoporosis, protecting against several types of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, skin, etc) is - in the opinion of it's creator -, one of the main reasons of homosexuality in the modern times. And to that, my friends, I don't know if I cry or if I laugh. Homosexuality, a pattern that exists from the time the human race found their way from the primitive soup's pot, suddenly for some people is due to diets rich in soy!!!

Then this email states that the modern trend of obesity among children is caused by soy and it's effects on the thyroidal gland, then teenagers become ever more obese. It's not the lack of sports, a sedentary life, consolas and video-games instead of going outside and play, fast-food and more carbohydrates than ever in our human history... for these people the reason is Soy. 

Another point they stress out. Mums not wanting to feed their children cow milk, swap to soy milk and suddenly in their perspective a few horrific things happen, i.e., male babies become gay and girls have their periods at the age of seven. They even state that male infants never happen to remember the time when they were not gay just because they were fed soy milk way too early in their lives.

I could not accept something so surreal and so biased. I accept science, scientific facts, research studies, principles and theories based in data, relevant data. I even accept miracles and magics when I am the one individual seeing them with my own eyes and only after exhausting all the possible scientific explanations. What I cannot accept is an email sent to people reading "Scientific studies from UK, New Zealand, Israel and France reveal that soy causes homosexuality, arrest physical development and male traits, can cause leukemia in infants and provoke thyroidal gland issues, subsequently, obesity" just like that. I accept any theory people come up with, but show me the studies, the data and the scientists who actually did such research.

Since I find this subject an offense to people who actually read and care for the facts, I decided to post hereby the guidelines for a healthy intake of soy, based on the with actual research articles cited so you can make your own judgment.

"Isoflavone intake ranges from about 30 to 50 mg/d. When isoflavone intake is not directly measured, it is easy to estimate because each gram of soy protein from traditional soyfoods is associated with approximately 3.5 mg isoflavone (this ratio does not hold in more Westernized soyfoods because isoflavone loss can occur with processing). [1]

"The dietary guidelines recommend consumption of three cups (six servings) of beans per week; recent data suggest Americans come close to meeting this modest recommendation although this intake still represents only about 10% of total protein, assuming ½ cup provides ~8 g and total protein intake is about 80 g/d. [1] 

The 2nd image up there contains the average levels of isoflavones (one of the two existing types of phytohormones the other one being lignans found in cereals, for example). For more information on a healthy soy intake go fetch on this great work by Mark Messina [2].

Just for closure. In my humble opinion, the two biggest and maybe sole real problems associated to soy is the way big farming companies have been destroying the Amazonian Rainforest (the Brazilian's Lunges of the World), and also the natural human stupidity and ignorance that whenever finds something good health-wise, explores that idea to the maximum thus making a venom out of a good ailment.

To sum up:

Soybeans - Better Health Channel [2]
"Eating soybeans can reduce the risk of a range of health problems, including coronary heart disease. Soybeans contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. Health benefits for menopausal women could include fewer hot flushes, protection from coronary heart disease and lowered risk of osteoporosis. Whole soy foods like soymilk, soy yoghurt, soy bread and tofu are high in phytoestrogens."

But because I am a scientist, I want to give the power of speech to both sides. So if you actually think soy milk is making children gay, this article HERE is for you. This is actually the original text from where this email sent to my mum was generated. See you tomorrow, only this time I'll serve Codfish.

Image taken from SuppVersity - Nutrition and Exercise Science for Everyone, [], last visited on the 08th of October 2012.

[1]., Guidelines for healthy soy intake [], last access on the 08th of October 2012, last update unknown.

[2]. Better Health Channel, Soybeans, [], last access on the 08th of October 2012, last updated on February 2011.

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